Girls volleyball: Jacobs rallies for FVC win over Burlington Central
Jacobs senior libero Gracie Breeze played with a defensive mentality on Thursday that has been the norm for a hungry Golden Eagles' team early on this season.
"I just don't let the ball drop," said Breeze, who led all players against Burlington Central with 26 digs. "I'm wearing this jersey and I'm doing it for my team. Our energies and personalities just come together so well.
"We know when we need to fight."
Jacobs' nonstop energy and fight was on full display against the Rockets.
After losing the first set and trailing 24-21 in the second, the Eagles came back to defeat Central 19-25, 26-24, 25-11 in their Fox Valley Conference match.
Central (5-2, 4-2 FVC) had won five straight matches before Thursday's three-set loss to Jacobs (6-5, 3-3).
"We're able to come back with our attitudes," Breeze said. "This year, we know what we need to do to win and what things we still need to work on to improve. I feel like we have everything that we need to execute. It's just a matter of going out and getting it done."
While the Eagles' defense was led by the stellar play of Breeze, the offense was led by senior middle blocker Ali Pierre, who recorded 10 kills, eight blocks and three aces, and junior outside hitter Jordan Miller, who had seven kills and 15 digs.
Senior setter Abby Deacon had a team-high 14 assists, eight digs and three aces for Jacobs, senior outside hitter Cassie Gorrity had five kills, and junior right-side hitter Mia Koltuniuk had three blocks and seven digs. Meghan Retzler added eight digs.
In the second set, the Eagles were down 24-21 and went on to score the next five points to secure the set. Pierre had a key block to go up 25-24, and Gorrity collected her third kill of the second set to force a third.
"We don't give up," Jacobs coach Mike Depa said. "Sometimes we get into tough situations where we have to dig ourselves out of a hole, but it's still early and we're still trying to figure it out. I think we're starting to find it a little more, and I'm excited to see where it goes."
Depa noticed a different attitude from his team at summer camp. Jacobs struggled last year to a 13-22 record.
"They came with an attitude that they wanted to improve and be better than last year," Depa said. "They're a whole team this year. They work together and that's crucial. We don't have a 6-foot tall girl that's going to be someone we can go to all the time.
"We can move the ball to a bunch of different girls, who can put the ball down at any time. When you can do that, it's dangerous to have to play against."
Jacobs took control early in the third set, jumping out to a 5-1 lead. The Eagles later led 11-7 and went on to score the next 10 points for a 21-7 advantage.
Deacon said the Eagles don't let the scoreboard dictate how they play.
"We've come back from worse, so I just encouraged the team to know we can do it," Deacon said. "The score doesn't matter. This year we know we're stronger and we can do better. We kept our energy up, made sure to be smart with the ball, we were ready on defense, and we made sure to never let the ball drop."
Central was led by senior outside hitter Ashli Bonds with nine kills, junior middle blocker Leah Freesemann with seven kills and sophomore outside hitter Haidyn Schatz with five. Brianna Gritzman added three aces.
Central coach Julia Smagacz felt the Rockets started to play too casual late.
"We had a conversation afterwards," Smagacz said. "I think we got a little comfortable. We had that first set in the bag, we had [match] point, and we were like, 'We've got this.' But [Jacobs] is a team we can't do that against. That's a team that fought us hard last year and they are really competitive.
"We saw the '24' and it's like, 'We've got this.' But I told them after, crazy things happen in this conference all the time."