JACKSON TWP. At some point, the streak will end - just not this year.
Jackson volleyball came into this season with a 74-match Federal League winning streak and, although this year’s squad looked different and may not have had the same size on the front line as previous squads, the Polar Bears once again navigated the league schedule without a loss. Twelve more league wins extended the streak to 86.
With a 20-1 record and perfect 12-0 mark entering the postseason, the Polar Bears delivered a regular season with results on par with what they’ve accomplished over the past few seasons.
Whether this year’s team makes its own deep tournament run remains to be seen, but head coach Jeff Walck likes how the Polar Bears have responded to the challenges in front of them.
"We far exceeded my expectations, always wearing the bulls eye on our back (and) I believe the girls handled that pressure very well and our record shows how well," Walck said.
The season ended with an 86-match league winning streak alive and well, but the road to a seventh straight undefeated league campaign didn’t get off to a smooth start. Facing Perry in its first league match, Jackson dropped the first set to the Panthers. That 25-23 result delivered a surprise gut punch for the Polar Bears, but the response to dropping that set was impressive.
From that point on, they didn’t lose a set in league play the rest of the way, sweeping their way to another title and proving that the lost set had delivered a message heard loud and clear by the entire roster.
"It showed we needed to stay prepared and play hard each and every point, that we would continue to get everyone's best shot," Walck said. "I was proud of the way the girls came back in dominating fashion."
The one obvious area where this year’s team differed from previous ones was height. It was an issue the Polar Bears knew about coming into the season and couldn’t change, so they did their best to make do with their strengths and play a style best suited to the team they had. Having players 6-foot-1 or 6-foot-2 is a benefit any coach would love to have, but those without can still find ways to win matches and that’s what Jackson did during the regular season.
"We sure would like to be taller, but we have compensated for our lack of height with strong ball control both in passing and digging, strong serving and playing great positions when the opponents attack happens," Walck said.
The road through the district tournament once again has a familiar look, as the entire Federal League is in the Uniontown Division I bracket. The first potential league match can’t happen until the district semifinals, when Perry and Canton McKinley are potential opponents, with Hoover, Lake, Green and GlenOak all on the opposite side of the bracket.
Beating any of those six schools for a third time this season would keep Jackson’s season alive, and while it wouldn’t count toward their 86-game league streak, according to Walck, the Polar Bears - especially their senior class - can breathe easy knowing they did their part to keep it alive.
"I think they are ready for the second season, we have much work to do and I know they will prepare very hard to continue to get better," Walck said. "I think the girls were both excited to keep the streak alive as well as a bit nervous not wanting to be the team that lost the streak. I couldn't be more proud of my girls this fall. It is an awesome group of fine young ladies."
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB