Close-knit Jackson squad coming in with high hopes | Volleyball

Wolfpack just missed out on state last season
By David Pan | Sep 15, 2017
Photo by: David R Pan Jackson’s Olivia Skibiel and Ciarra Choe guard the net during a jamboree at Cascade High School.

The Jackson volleyball team is ready to make another run at a state berth.

After finishing fourth in the Wesco 4A, the Timberwolves surprised some observers with a strong performance at the district tournament.

Jackson advanced to the semifinals and eventually lost 3-1 to Monroe in a winner-to-state/loser-out game.

The five returning varsity players draw motivation from last year’s playoff run.

“That pushes even more,” senior co-captain Lauren Atwood said. “We know we’re capable of it and everyone has the mentality that we are going to state.”

Wolfpack co-captain Ciarra Choe said that the Timberwolves are prepared to work hard this season.

“We’re super hungry for state … But at the same time we know that we can’t just waltz into the season,” Choe said.

Even though more than half of the roster is composed of players who are new to varsity, the team chemistry already is strong, according to coach Mindy Staudinger.

The players come in with a good amount of volleyball smarts, Staudinger said.

“They respond well to feedback. They pick up on things and when we ask them to do something, they do it,” the Jackson coach said. “They are really learning in practice to trust one another, which takes time.”

All of the Jackson players are part of what Choe said is a cohesive program and tight-knit school.

“Even though we were on separate teams, we all know each other at school,” Choe said. “We’re all one big family at Jackson. We’re not just frosh and JV.”

The Jackson offense will be led by returning senior setter Taylor Eastwood, who Staudinger noted sharpened her skills in the offseason.

“She’s really worked on getting her feet to the ball and stepping through versus going backwards,” Staudinger said. “I’m excited for her to be more of a leader. We’re working on her being more vocal.”

The Jackson offense graduated its best offensive player, first-team, all-league outside hitter Alex Crittenden, but return a number of strong hitters, including Choe, senior middle blocker Lauren Demoulin and junior middle blocker Olivia Skibiel.

Staudinger describes Jackson as running a spread offense.

“We’ve been working on spreading the blockers, as well as flooding the blockers,” she said.

The goal is to use combination sets to draw the attention of blockers and open up other areas or force the defense to make a choice.

“I think we have the personnel to be able to accomplish that,” Staudinger said. “What it will all come down to is our passing and how consistent we can be that.”

Choe has high hopes for 2017.

“We have a lot of talented players. I think we all know we can do well,” she said. “I know we can work hard. Nothing is going to come easy this season. We have the skills. We have the potential. We’re all excited to show the skills we have.”

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