They were hoping it would be different this time.
After dropping a match to Hudson early in the season, the Jackson volleyball team had a chance for revenge on the Hudson Explorers in a Division I regional final.
The Polar Bears had rolled through their first four tournament games without dropping a set, but their roll came to a crashing halt in straight sets (25-21, 27-25, 25-13) as their dream of a return to the state title game ended.
"Our expectations every year, right or wrong, is to make the final four and be a big part of that dance down there (Dayton)," Jackson coach Jeff Walck said. "It was obviously disappointing for all of our kids and especially for those seniors, because you really try to get down there for those seniors."
The turning point for the match was the second set, as the two teams battled back and forth, trading leads, seizing momentum from one another and going to extra points to decide the winner. After rushing out to an 8-1 lead to begin the set, Jackson appeared to have found its rhythm. The set was tied three times, the last at 22-22, but the Polar Bears (24-4) could not regain the lead once Hudson edged ahead.
When the Explorers took the set on a dramatic final point, it proved to be a blow from which Jackson could not recover.
"We had chances to win that set a couple of times and when we didn't, it really took the wind out of our sails," Walck said. "I was surprised because we didn't play very well in that third set, but when the momentum swung and the confidence built on the other side, they became more aggressive and we were being more cautious."
Walck said prior to the game that controlling an opponent's middle blockers and not allowing them to get on extended runs is a vital component of tournament success and Hudson's Krissy Mummey proved him right. Mummey posted team highs of 14 kills and five blocks and scored important points late in each of the first two sets. The Polar Bears struggled all match long to solve the tandem of Mummey and junior Jordan Mackay and saw their postseason dreams dashed as a result.
The Polar Bears' stars, including sophomore Brooke Bailey and seniors Jen Slogar and Stephanie Spencer, led the way in defeat. Bailey (15 kills) topped the team, while Spencer and Slogar added 11 kills each.
After the match, several of the seniors stood up to wish their teammates well in the future and expressed confidence that the Polar Bears will make it back to the state level next season. The faces may change, but the expectations don't, and Walck wouldn't have it any other way.