By Bryant Billing
ANNA — Ashley Landis likes cookies, but wins over Jackson Center are even sweeter.
Landis, a senior outside hitter for Anna’s volleyball team, enjoyed a sugar cookie with green icing that was provided by the team’s parents after a match against Jackson Center on Thursday. Landis said the desert didn’t compare to the match, though, as Anna beat the Tigers 25-23, 25-15 and 25-23.
“This was huge,” Landis said. “We’ve never beat Jackson Center in my high school experience, so beating them in our senior year is awesome.”
Anna improved to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the Shelby County Athletic League with the win, which is the team’s third straight. Anna is in the early race for the SCAL title with Fort Loramie (5-3, 3-0) and Russia (3-2, 2-0).
Jackson Center (1-3, 0-2) has been the best team in the league the last two years but has struggled early. The Tigers still played with Anna throughout the match and had leads late in the first and third sets.
“We just needed to stay focused and not let them get settled and get ahead,” Landis said. “You’ve just got to get excited for every point, even if it’s a little point. You’ve just got to get excited every time. That just keeps our energy up and keeps us going strong the whole time.”
Landis had 11 kills, eight digs and three assisted blocks. She sat out for some of the third set, during which time the Tigers took an early lead. After she came back in, the Rockets scored four of the last five points to seal the match. Landis said a talk on the bench with Anna coach Kelli Zumberger helped her move on from some mistakes earlier in the set.
“She said I needed to keep playing hard and not think about it and just go after it,” Landis said.
The first set went back-and-forth, and neither team scored more than three points in a row. The match was tied 19-19, 21-21 and 23-23 late before the Rockets scored the last two points.
“Jackson Center and us are just really similar teams,” Anna coach Kelli Zumberger said. “I think in that first set, the confidence in our girls after a few timeouts gave them a boost a little bit and helped to play a cool, calm, collective game.”
Junior middle hitter Emma Meyer had 13 kills and four solo and assisted blocks, while junior setter Lexi Wells had 34 assists and Macy Wiktorowski had seven kills and 11 digs. Zumberger credited those three players and Landis for helping to lead the offense. She said she’s been especially happy with Wells’ improvement from last season.
“Lexi Wells has been doing an excellent job at making better decisions compared to her sophomore year,” Zumberger said. “She’s just doing a great job of running the offense there.”
Zumberger said she was happy to beat the Tigers early in the season, as she expects them to continue to improve and be better when the teams meet again on Sept. 26.
“Jackson has a solid team, even though they lost a lot from last year,” Zumberger said. “But heck, Kim (Metz) has still got it there, and they’ll be tough to beat.”
Anna plays next at the Lehman Catholic Invitational on Saturday, while Jackson Center plays at New Bremen.