Story and Photos by Brennan Waldorf
The only volleyball team from the Eastern Shore district to compete this year finished its season last Monday, April 12, in Eastville.
After a 3-3 regular season, the Lady Jackets were given a fourth seed in the Division I, Region A tournament. Their efforts landed them a home court advantage as they faced off against Mathews High School in the first round.
In the past decade, the Blue Devils have had one of the best programs in the region as they advanced six teams to the state championship game. They won three of those finals with the most recent title coming in 2017.
This year, Mathews was given a fifth seed in the regional tournament after a 6-6 regular season. The team used a strong and lengthy front court to defeat the Jackets in three straight sets (25-16, 25-10, 25-19).
In the first set of the game, the Jackets used their home court advantage to build a 7-2 lead as the Blue Devil starters made several hitting errors to begin the set. Mathews’ height advantage became an issue for the Jackets as they tried different rotations to slow down the Blue Devils 6-foot middle hitter Joice Small. Small was exceptional on offense and defense throughout all three sets of the game. She was frequently atop the net blocking the Jackets while also delivering her own hits that found the open floor. Small and sophomore Olivia Ashbaugh ultimately kept the Jackets at bay in the first set 25-16.
The Jackets didn’t fare well in the second set as they ended up trailing big with the Blue Devils building a 14-0 lead early in the set. The Jackets fell 25-10 in the set before finding some answers to the serve and front court in the third set. Northampton had to fight back from behind the entire set and showed grit keeping the game close but was never able to gain a lead after the first set’s run. They fell 25-19 with Mathews advancing to the semifinals to face off against top seeded Middlesex.
The Jackets were led offensively by Jacqueline Santos Maldonado and Peyton Sayers who each had six kills. Lyeric Brickhouse led in digs with seven, while Sierra Henao led the Jackets behind the line recording three aces.