JACKSON TWP. It’s become a staple of every spring sports season at Jackson High School: one of the school’s spring teams making it to the state tournament.
This season - along with members of the boys track team - the boys volleyball team filled the role, earning the program’s second state appearance in the past three seasons and continuing its growth since returning four years ago.
"It’s the best season Jackson’s ever had for boys volleyball," head coach Richard Jackson said. "When we made it to the 2016 state tournament, in a way we were happy to be there, but we were really outclassed. This year was a different story … we really belonged there. The boys played hard and the games were close."
In the end, the Polar Bears bowed out in their first match, with all three sets close, including one that went extra points and two of the three decided by three or fewer points.
Richard Jackson noted that Beavercreek is a program nearing double-digit appearances in the state tournament during its storied history in the sport and although the Beavers lost to eventual state champion Cincinnati Moeller, the Polar Bears’ defeat didn’t obscure the accomplishments of a 21-5 season that saw excitement around the program grow - along with the abilities of its players.
"The team this year was a much better-rounded team. We had very good role players that played specific role and played to the best of our ability there," the veteran coach said. "We played with a lot more confidence this year. We were a veteran team, but we were a young team too."
That seeming contradiction is one hinging on the fact that the Polar Bears had a good mix of veterans and newcomers, but also that some of their upperclassmen were still relatively new to the game. The five seniors on the roster all played big parts in the team’s success, but there were several underclassmen who also had major roles.
Junior Cam Ternent emerged as the biggest offensive threat for Jackson, a point illustrated by a sequence in the first set of the team’s regional championship win over Brunswick. Ternent elevated high above the net and smashed a spike off the face of a Brunswick player, bloodying his opponent’s nose.
Ternent is among the players on the team who are largely new to the sport and if you ask his coach, who has led high school and club teams in the area for years, figuring out where the ceiling is for Ternent's success is difficult.
"I’m not sure how high he’s going to go. He’s got the potential to be one of the top players in the state, if not the top player in state," Jackson said. "Doing what he did with only 15 months of experience is unheard of. What was nice this season with Cam is that he was an unknown in the volleyball world because he was new to the game. Now, the cat’s out of the bag and I think a lot of teams will watch and prepare for him."
If Ternent can combine his athletic ability with experience and continue to progress, Jackson believes he can be the linchpin for a team capable of going even further next season alongside the talented group of juniors, sophomores and freshman who populated the varsity roster and two junior varsity teams this season.
players such as Dillon Ryan, Jack McClure, Ethan Soltis and others will be tasked with filling in the voids left by the graduation of seniors Kevin Zuppe, Brent Tucke, Garrett Bachtel, Ryan Bruss and Alex Mallete.
Having two JV teams provided more chances for playing time for underclassmen and according to Richard Jackson, he and the rest of the coaching staff have already been trading emails and text messages with players and parents about offseason work and how to start working toward what they hope will be another state tournament appearance one year from now.
Should they make it back, recent history suggests that they could well have company when it comes to Jackson spring sports teams playing at the state tournament and regardless of which other spring teams could accomplish that feat, the boys volleyball team believes that it has the talent and structure in place to become a regular at the state level.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
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