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The pressure to win Thursday's Group 4A East championship match weighed heavy on Jamestown.
Not only were the Eagles trying to make up for a five-set loss to Grafton in the regional finals last season, but Jamestown was trying to win for one of its players, Gen Allison.
Allison, the starting libero for Jamestown, watched her mother, Betsy Fitzgerald, die of Alzheimer's disease on Monday and attended the visitation for her mother before Thursday's match.
With her entire family in attendance and the Jamestown fans sporting purple clothing in support of Alzheimer's awareness, Allison and her teammates willed themselves to a Group 4A East championship, defeating Hanover 25-19, 25-21, 22-25, 25-17.
"I am so proud of her for having the mental toughness," Jamestown Coach Tom Stephenson said of Allison.
As well as displaying mental fortitude, Jamestown showed why they are the top team in the region by playing stellar defense and a hard-hitting offense.
Jamestown opened the first set winning nine of the first 12 points, prompting Hanover to burn an early timeout. The timeout calmed the Hawks down, allowing them to battle and make the score 14-12 in favor of the Eagles.
The Eagles responded in kind, taking five of the next six points to hold a 19-13 advantage. With a sizable lead in hand, Jamestown cruised down the stretch to a 25-19 first set victory that was capped by a thunderous kill by Emma Schriner.
Jamestown and Hanover battled throughout the second set. While Jamestown opened the set on a 4-1 run, the Hawks stayed within striking distance and tied the set at pulled within one point of Jamestown before tying the set at 13-13.
The two teams exchanged points until Jamestown put together a crucial 5-0 to take a 21-17 lead. The Eagles split the final eight points with the Hawks, but that split proved to be enough to take the second set 25-21.
Throughout the match, but especially in the second set, Hanover servers targeted their serves at Allison as the libero. Allison, who praised the hard serving of Hanover, withstood the pressure and helped lead the Jamestown defense with 19 digs.
"We practice serve-receive every day. It's probably the top thing we practice other than hitting," Allison said. "But our team, we don't bring each other down that much. We're all really supportive. We don't yell at each other, we just pick each other up. So that was a huge part, too."
The uplifting nature of Jamestown's team proved critical in the third set as Hanover gutted out its only set win of the match.
Jamestown and Hanover split the first eight points of the set before the Eagles pulled to a 10-6 lead. The lead was short-lived as Hanover responded by winning six of the next eight points to tie the set at 12-12.
The set went back-and-forth as both teams traded point for point. Neither team got separation from the other until the set was tied 22-22. With a quick 3-0 run by Hanover, the Hawks edged Jamestown to make the score 2-1.
After dropping the third set, Stephenson gave his team a much-needed pep talk to spark a strong fourth set performance.
"I said 'Listen, we've got to keep our ball control so we can run our offense and attack them,'" Stephenson said. "'We have three hitters over 6-foot tall, and the reason we lost that set was because we lost our ball control. '"
The Jamestown players heeded their coach's words as the Eagles dominated Hanover in the fourth set.
An 11-0 run by Jamestown put the Eagles on top 14-2 early in the set. While Hanover clawed within single digits of Jamestown, the Eagles kept their distance and skated to a 25-17 set victory, taking the match and the Group 4A East championship.
While the win was celebrated by Jamestown's players, the win meant just a little more to Allison, who used volleyball as a way to cope with her mother's death throughout the week.
"I'm really thankful for everyone that supported me," Allison said after the match. "I can't describe how much I appreciate [the support] and how much it helped me through it. So, thank you to everyone."
Jamestown (24-3) will now prepare to host a Group 4A state semifinal match Tuesday against the loser of the Group 4A West championship match.
Jamestown def. Hanover 25-19, 25-21, 22-25, 25-17
Jametown: Gen Allison (19 digs, 2 assists), Maggie Viniard (46 assists, 13 digs), Ellie Popelka (11 kills, 6 blocks, 3 digs), Maria Esch (14 digs, 12 kills, 2 blocks)
Warhill Wins Group 3A East Championship
After losing to Poquoson twice in the regular season, Warhill got its revenge Thursday by defeating Poquoson 20-25, 25-19, 25-23, 25-15 in the Group 3A East championship match.
The match started in Poquoson's favor as the Islanders took the first set by five points.
Warhill responded thanks to big matches from Nicole Mulligan, Chloe Wilmoth and Cori Clifton, all of whom recorded double-doubles for the Lions.
The Lions took control in the second set, defeating Poquoson by six points to knot the match at 1-1. The second set was much closer, with the Lions edging the Islanders by two points to take a 2-1 lead.
Warhill dominated the final set, cruising to a 10-point win and the Group 3A East championship.
The Lions (19-5) will now prepare to host the loser of the Group 3A West championship Tuesday in the semifinal round of the Group 3A state tournament.
Warhill def. Poquoson 20-25, 25-19, 25-23, 25-15
Warhill: Nicole Mulligan (21 kills, 10 digs, 6 aces), Chloe Wilmoth (23 assists, 17 kills), Cori Clifton (21 assists, 13 kills, 4 blocks, 3 aces)
Poquoson: Toni Anne Whitlow (19 kills, 15 digs), Lindsey Lang (9 kills), Megan Saetre (34 assists, 9 digs)