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Jackson volleyball brings home SEMO Conference Tournament title for fifth year

Members of the Jackson volleyball team pose with the SEMO Conference Tournament Championship plaque after beating Notre Dame 2-0 (25-17, 25-17) last Thursday at the Cape Girardeau SportsPlex. Photo by Jay Forness

The phrase “five-peat” could be heard being chanted by members of the Jackson volleyball team after the Indians won their fifth-straight SEMO Conference Tournament Championship last week at the Cape Girardeau SportsPlex.

One of those Indians was junior outside hitter Ella Domian, who recorded a game-high 14 kills out of 17 total attacks (.765 hitting percentage) versus crosstown rival Notre Dame in the title game. Domian also had one of her team’s five blocks against the Bulldogs.

“This is a great group of talented ladies, and we know how to come together on the court,” Domian said. “I really felt the connection with my setter tonight and it’s a big opportunity to play against Notre Dame — they’re good. We always have to come out strong against them, especially on offense.”

Domian was the only player for Jackson with double-digit kills in the game partly due to the Bulldogs ability to contest the Indians leader in kills sophomore outside hitter Katy St. John.

Notre Dame has three players that are 6-foot or taller in senior outside hitter Tori Rubel (6-1), freshman middle blocker Kate Rubel (6-0) and sophomore middle blocker Courtney Tatum (6-0). The Rubel Duo each had one block, while Tatum and senior outside hitter Kristin Anderson both recorded two.

“That just gets us ready for postseason play when there’s giants on the other side also,” Jackson head coach Dave Mirly said. “Notre Dame is a great test to see how we react to playing teams with a lot of height.”

However, this lead for a player like Domian to have much success on the opposite side with Notre Dame focusing its blocking more so on St. John and the middle. St. John only finished with three kills on 19 attacks (-.105), but junior middle blocker Nadia Wasilewski had six along with two blocks.

Wasilewski, who fields an offer from Southeast Missouri State, even went on a 3-0 scoring run of her own in the first set. Making a personal run like that was vital against a team like Notre Dame that had beaten Jackson in one set of pool play at 25-20 the day before.

“Nadia is so good — she’s so athletic and has worked so hard on her game,” Coach Mirly said. “Tonight, we were able to pass the ball a little bit better, and when we do that we can get our middles more involved. The passes to Nadia were so quick that Notre Dame couldn’t double team her, so that was a great job for us. [Our senior setter] Kamryn Link did a wonderful job of finding mismatches.”

Jackson went on seven scoring runs throughout the game consisting of totals of 8-0, 6-0, 5-0 and 4-0. The Bulldogs only had three scoring runs of their own at 5-0, 4-0 and 3-0, while forcing two ties in the second set after the Indians took a 5-0 lead to start.

To give Jackson a commanding 23-14 lead back in the first set, Domian recorded four of her team’s points via kills in a 6-0 run. Ella had three kills during the Indians 8-0 run in the second set, while junior middle hitter Christa Vandeven added a block of her own.

“It’s all very challenging because you have one team calling a timeout when you’re really just trying to stay in the game and keep up with the next play,” Domian said. “Volleyball is really fast. As one of our shorter hitters, it’s definitely harder to match the same type of beat that everyone else has.

“I’m kind of overlooked in the front row because of my height (5-10), but I’ve put in the work. I know how to make it happen on the court.”

Another key to the Indians winning their fifth conference tournament title in a row was their success in serve receive. Jackson junior libero Holland Guilliams was served at twelve times and finished with a serve-receive total of 2.5, which anything above a 2.0 in the Indians stat book “is good.”

“Holland has probably been our most consistent player all year long,” Coach Mirly said. “It’s hard to stay at a high level all the time — everyone has bad games or bad stretches where they don’t play their best. Not Holland.

“She has been dynamic for us the entire season. I’m so proud of her and how hard she works. When you see her hustling around and diving on the court like she did [against Notre Dame], that’s what she does in every practice.”

Guilliams also finished the game with seven digs, while junior defensive specialists Charlee Koepp and Grace Newell each had five. Recording the most digs for Jackson was Link with eight, while she also had 19 assists and three kills.

Jackson’s (18-3-3) combined effort led to a 2-0 (25-17, 25-17) win for over Notre Dame (14-5-3) after tying with the Bulldogs 1-1 (25-18, 25-20) in pool play. This was the only set the Indians lost throughout the tournament as they swept the likes of Cape Central (13-12-1), Poplar Bluff (6-14-1) and Sikeston (4-8).

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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