HOWLAND - Jackson-Milton volleyball coach Sue Prozy knew when she heard her girls giggling about homecoming before a big matchup with Howland that it was going to be a good day.
Some coaches might be a bit bothered by their team gossiping about a school dance minutes before a game. Not Prozy.
"They're a team that likes to have fun," she said. "And when we stop having fun, we don't do as well. So, if they're laughing and goofing in the huddle, it's going to be a good game."
Tribune Chronicle / Michael Taylor
Jackson-Milton’s Erica Hughes spikes the ball over Howland’s Megan Papalas for a winner during Monday’s match at Howland High School. Jackson-Milton won the match, 3-0.
Prozy's girls were having plenty of fun Monday as the Blue Jays rolled past Howland three games to none to stay undefeated.
Jackson-Milton (8-0) seemed at home on Howland's court, taking Game 1, 25-21. The Blue Jays trailed, 16-12, at one point, but continued to battle back and took the lead for good at 18-17. The win set the tone for an energetic and hustling Jackson-Milton team, which made very few mistakes and wasn't intimidated by the taller and hard-hitting Tigers (7-4).
"We get really pumped up in the beginning, and sometimes, if something bad happens, we get down, but we always come back and cheer each other on," Jackson-Milton senior outside hitter Rachael Obradovich said. "We're a real close team, and we love to support each other. No matter what, we're there for each other."
Maybe even more important than Game 1 was a big comeback in Game 2. An early lead by the Blue Jays was quickly erased as Howland scored eight straight points to go up, 12-7. The Tigers continued to build an advantage and led by as many as 10 points at 18-8. Jackson-Milton started to slowly chip away at the lead, and a six-point run cut the score to 19-17. Howland regained its form and led, 24-21, just one point from a victory, but the Blue Jays kept battling, and a key block gave them the lead at 25-24. They eventually closed the game out and won, 27-25.
Holding on to a lead has been a problem for the Tigers, who blew an eight-point advantage last week in a match against Hubbard. Coach Amanda Lingenfelter said she's still trying to figure out just what the issue is and how to fix it.
"It's an undiagnosed problem," she said. "I'm not sure what's going on with it. We see it on the bench - the other team gets momentum, we seem to kind of back off on the ball a little bit and tough teams will get back in it. They come after you. Volleyball's a little bit of a marathon; you have to sustain it throughout the whole match."
The Game 2 loss was a devastating blow for the Tigers, and it showed in Game 3. They trailed from the first point on, and despite a late rally to move within four points, Jackson-Milton pulled away to win, 25-17. Lingenfelter said she's confident her girls will bounce back. Howland has home matches against Canfield today and another on Thursday against Struthers.
"We're getting there, and we can only get better," she said. "(Canfield's) pretty decent. They have an outside hitter, Sabrina Mangapora, she's tough - one of the better players in the area, so her against (Howland senior Erika) Lapmardo will be interesting."