The Yellow Jackets improved all season and found themselves where they thought they should be - in second place in the conference and back in the playoffs. The girls advanced, but not as far as they had hoped.
Fort Mill started the season by losing its first four matches, including the ones they played at a tournament at Country Day School in Charlotte. After defeating Nation Ford twice on the season and remaking themselves as one of the top teams in the region, the Lady Jackets turned around that slow start.
The turnaround came to a halt with a loss to Byrnes in the second round of the playoffs. Fort Mill has a strong core of two seniors - Corinne Jones and Jessie Ellingsen - but everyone else will return next year, including standouts Allison Rogers and Lindsey Piedt.
The Lady Yellow Jackets started to believe in what first-year head coach Melanie Jaehnen has been saying since practices began and were rewarded with a return trip to the postseason.
"We worked on some new hitting strategies at practices which paid off for us," Jaehnen said.
"Hitting has always been something that has hurt us. We are a good passing and defensive team but have had trouble putting the ball away on the attack."
Fort Mill opened up the playoffs against Ridgeview. The Lady Jackets, who have been a slow-starting team by their own admission, had problems this time in the middle of the match but were able to close strong and prevail in the end even though it was a tightly contested contest.
"We had a tough first round match; we knew that coming in," Jaehnen said.
"We had played them earlier in the season and split with them. It was going to come down to who wanted it more."
In the first game The Yellow Jackets took a 25-20 lead only to see Ridgeview take the next two games 25-16 and 25-22.
"We won the first game because we were ready to play. The second game we just didn't play well, we made a lot of mental mistakes," Jaehnen said.
With their backs against the wall and the season on the verge of ending prematurely, the girls were able to rally and come away with the end. Fort Mill won the last two games 25-12 and 15-12 and survived to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
"The third game you could see the fight coming back slowly. In the fourth game, our team had gotten their confidence back and you could see the desire back in their eyes which is why we were able to pull out the victory," Jaehnen said.
Jones again led the team and played her usual all-around game tallying 18 digs, 14 kills and four service aces. Lindsey Piedt contributed 32 assists and seven service aces and Allison Rogers added 16 digs and eight kills.
Last Thursday, Byrnes defeated the Yellow Jackets in three games, 25-19, 25-15 and 25-16 to end Fort Mill's turnaround season. The Jackets fell behind early and were never able to regain momentum.
Corinne Jones had 11 digs for the match and Lindsey Piedt contributed 17 assists. Megan Crimi had seven kills and Allison Rogers recorded six to lead the outside hitters.
Although Fort Mill is disappointed with the way the season ended they know that the team will be strong again next year and should be able to return to the playoffs.