Fort Mill head volleyball coach Melanie Jaehnen knew that the strong non-conference schedule she arranged for her team would eventually pay off. Last week, the Lady Yellow Jackets became the first team this season to defeat Nation Ford.
The Yellow Jackets have begun to string together wins and the hard work and tough early schedule are starting to pay dividends and have prepared them for conference play.
"Our team has finally found the ball control that I have been talking to them about all season," Jaehnen said. "They have learned that in order to control the game they have to control the ball. I have been preaching that from day one and I think they have finally seen the light."
Fort Mill traveled to Clover and had to go to four games, but were able to prevail in the end, winning 25-20, 17-25, 25-20 and 25-22 in the decisive game.
Lindsey Piedt led the attack recording 26 assists. Jessie Ellingsen led the defense with 21 digs, and Allison Rogers led the offense and finished the match with 11 kills.
"It was a great game for the girls and a big conference win for us," Jaehnen said.
The Yellow Jackets returned home to face York Comprehensive and continued their newly found success and were able to win with relative ease 25-15, 25-19 and 25-15.
Piedt contributed a team-high 10 assists in the win. Corinne Jones led the offensive attack and recorded 10 kills and Kaitlyn Marr added seven digs.
Fort Mill traveled to an 11-team tournament hosted by Northwestern and finished third overall.
The Yellow Jackets were assured of playing at least three games, but their strong play led them all the way to the semifinals, allowing them to play five games, but just missing the finals.
They defeated Lewisville in the first match 25-13 and 25-8. Fort Mill then took out Ridge View 25-19 and 25-21 before losing to Maudlin 15-25 and 12-25. In the quarterfinals they beat Clover 25-24 and 25-19. They were defeated by Ridge View in the semifinals 19-25 and 23-25 in a rematch.
The Yellow Jackets had a good showing and have been coming on strong for first-year coach Jaehnen. Kendall Pendergraph and Ellingsen were rewarded for their strong play and received All-Tournament honors.
For the tournament, Piedt totaled 47 assists. Ellingsen contributed 40 digs and Pendergraph added seven blocks. Jones played a great all-around tournament and came away with 22 kills and 28 digs.
The Yellow Jackets defeated Gaffney 25-17, 25-13 and 25-16. Megan Crimi recorded seven kills, and Jones had another good all-around game with seven kills and 20 digs. Piedt had 13 assists and Rogers chipped in with five service aces.
Northwestern was able to take the Yellow Jackets best shot and survive another tight match on Wednesday. Fort Mill lost in four games; 23-25, 22-25, 27-25 and 19-25.
Fort Mill has a busy stretch coming up on its schedule that will determine where they end up in conference standings. Fort Mill also hosts Providence Day Oct. 15 then takes on Gaffney Friday.
The stretch of upcoming games is very important for the Yellow Jackets, and now that they have begun their winning ways, the season is still up for the taking after a slow start.
"The upcoming matches are very important for this team," Jaehnen said. "All of our upcoming conference matches are important to our seeding for state. The higher our seeding for states the better chance we will have to win more rounds in the playoffs."
Before losing to Fort Mill, the Nation Ford Lady Falcons pushed their record to 8-0 for the season with wins against Clover and York.
They defeated Clover in five games 25-19, 22-25, 21-25, 25-13, 8-15. Although coach Grete Miller felt the team did not play well against Clover, she said the girls continue to focus on eliminating what she described as a "slow start."
"We had way too many unforced errors," Miller said. "We were trying out a new offense and we're still a bit rusty."
The coach also said the team is still dealing with a lot of illnesses.
The team brought home another win as they took on Clover, defeating them in three games, 21-25, 25-13, 9-25. Leading players for the Falcons included Caroline Ficklen.
"She is just a great defensive player because she is so smart," Miller said. "She is a strong math student and I think she calculates distances on the court and therefore her court awareness is perfect."
Miller said senior Heather Hammond has also made a significant contribution to
the team this year with her strong defensive play.
"She's also a strong and consistent server," said Miller, who is happy to have her strongest servers, Ally Lambert and Sara Bebeau, back and healthy again.
Miller attributes the team's success so far this year to preparation and workouts that began as far back as June.
-- Tracy McGinnis contributed.