TROY — With many first-time varsity players last year, Jackson Center struggled to a 14-11 record and saw a streak of 12 consecutive district titles end when it lost to Franklin-Monroe in a district semifinal.
The Tigers were improved this year and beat Franklin-Monroe in a district semifinal last Tuesday to earn a spot against Tri-Village in the first of three Division IV district finals on Saturday at Troy High School’s Trojan Activities Center.
Inconsistent play prevented Jackson Center from starting another district championship streak, though. Tri-Village started the fifth game on a 6-2 run and held on from there to earn a 15-11 victory and earn a 3-2 win for the match.
“Just too many mistakes too many times,” Metz said. “We gave away a 19-11 (lead) that first set. You just can’t do that stuff; you can’t have those mental breakdowns and the issues that come with it.
“… Just mental toughness. We kind of just gave away just too many points and didn’t stay aggressive.”
The Patriots (21-4) took an 8-4 lead in the first game but Jackson Center went on a 15-3 run to build its big lead. Tri-Village scored 10 of the next 12 points to tie it 21-21, then took control by scoring the next three points, thanks in part to two errors by Jackson Center.
After losing 25-22 in the first set, Jackson Center controlled the second set and won 25-17. The teams played to an 18-18 score in the third set, then the Tigers scored two consecutive points after a Tri-Village error and an ace by Kennedy Jackson.
But Tri-Village battled back to tie it 21-21. After the teams played to a 25-25 score, the Patriots scored two consecutive points to win 27-25 and take a 2-1 match lead.
After taking a 15-13 lead in the fourth game, the Tigers scored six consecutive points and ran away to 25-19 victory to force a fifth set.
But Tri-Village scored the first three points in the fifth game to take control early. Jackson Center later worked to tie it 11-11 but Tri-Village scored the last four points. Meghan Downing had two kills for the Patriots during the match-deciding run while Jackson Center was called for a lift and sent one spike into the net.
“I think everybody had an opportunity during the match to take the match away,” Metz said. “It came down to how well you could sustain. We had runs that controlled an awful lot of the sets, including that fifth set. Tri-Village was able to find a play here or there and took that and other sets away from us. They have great players and great passing. Their defense was very much on point.
“We tried to get some things they were doing handled, but we just didn’t stay aggressive when we needed to.”
Jackson Center finishes 18-8 overall. After finishing fourth in Shelby County Athletic League play last year, the squad finished third overall this season with an 8-4 record and finished behind co-champions Fort Loramie and Russia, which both won D-IV district titles later on Saturday in Troy.
Metz said she was proud of the team’s improvement and credited its seven seniors.
“They are fireballs and go-getters,” Metz said. “They’re very passionate about playing and about the game. The athleticism that they bring is going to be something some younger kids are going to have to fill.
“… I couldn’t have been happier for them, what they did (this season). They got to the place they wanted to be to control part of their destiny. Tri-Village just did a great job of taking the match.”
Among the seniors the squad will be losing to graduation this year is setter/outside hitter Ashley Mullenhour, who was a four-year letterwinner. Mullenhour had 163 kills, 29 aces, 245 digs and 358 assists this season for the Tigers.
The squad will also lose defensive specialists Hope Booser, Regan Davidson, and Marion Shaffer, outside hitter Katie Clark, middle hitter Deja Wells and Jackson, a setter, to graduation.
Clark was fourth on the team with 144 kills this season. Wells led the squad with 51 blocks while Clark had 32. Booser was third with 163 digs and 23 aces while Jackson was second behind Mullenhour with 237 assists.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.