JAMES CITY — They expect to win at Jamestown High, where the girls volleyball team walked onto the court Thursday with a 50-match home winning streak. The Eagles haven't lost much anywhere else during a four-season string in which seniors Kelly Esch, Monique St. Cyr and Victoria Bowen have been victorious in 104 of 117 matches.
What they didn't expect was the decisive 25-20, 25-20, 25-15 win against rival Grafton in the 4A South Region tournament championship match. Yes, it was the fourth win of the season for the Eagles (27-1) over the Clippers (21-6), but the other three were competitive enough to suggest another tight battle.
"I was a little surprised, to be honest, because this (was) our fourth match with them and they know how we play," Jamestown coach Tom Stephenson said. "But I thought our defense was stellar and we played very aggressive and disciplined.
"Our discipline and composure was very important at times, because I thought Grafton got a little rattled."
The Eagles' first key surge came in the first set behind the serving of junior Tess Anderson. Anderson kept the Clippers on their heels with eight service points, including two aces.
"That definitely gave us a lot of momentum," Anderson said. "We talked about keeping our energy up and taking it into the next game (set)."
Maria Esch launched the Eagles into the next set with a kill for the 25-20 first-set win. She and LSU-bound older sister Kelly Esch, the Conference 19 Player of the Year, had a big night at the net, combining for 25 blocks and three kills.
Credit for that, Stephenson was quick to point out, goes to state-record-setting setter Monique St. Cyr. St. Cyr, who will play volleyball on scholarship at the University of West Florida, set up the hitters with 32 assists while contributing 11 digs to a defense that earned a "stellar" tag from Stephenson.
"Monique was moving our hitters around the net," Stephenson said. "When you can do that, they're less predictable, which is important against a team that does a good job blocking like Grafton."
Said St. Cyr: "We're not the tallest team, so moving the ball around is important. Being faster than the other team will make your game, because if they're taller and hit a little harder, it's better to be faster so they can't catch up to you."
After falling behind by six points in the second set, Grafton caught up, tying the score at 14. Clippers standout Kendall Mahony, who had a team-high 16 kills, used a slam and a dink on consecutive plays to tie the score.
But St. Cyr, the Esch sisters, Saskia Beitzell and Ellie Popelka took over and the Eagles pulled away again. St. Cyr faked a set and scored on a kill to give Jamestown set point, before setting up Kelly Esch with the set-winner.
The third set was pretty much no contest, Clippers coach Karissa Cumberbatch said, "because my team lost its intensity about midway through and didn't compete. We got a trophy and did well to go to states, so I'm not disappointed, but you can't take anything away from Jamestown."
Grafton will play in the 4A state semifinals Thursday at 1 p.m. in the VCU Siegel Center against the 4A North champion: likely perennial state power Loudoun Valley. The Eagles will play the 4A North runner-up — likely James Wood of Winchester — at 3 p.m. at VCU.
Jamestown d. Grafton 25-20, 25-20, 25-15. Standouts: Grafton, Mahony 16 kills, 4 digs; Beaudoin 7 kills, 4 digs; Williams 16 digs; Jamestown, K. Esch 14 kills, 2 blocks; M. Esch 11 kills, 6 digs; Anderson 8 digs; St. Cyr 32 assists, 11 digs, 3 blocks. Records: Grafton 21-6, Jamestown 27-1.
O'Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963.Copyright © 2015, CT Now