Freshman outside hitter Jazlyn Jackson had a strong performance Thursday night, helping the Mesa Jackrabbits defeat the Westwood Warriors in four sets, 25-14, 25-12, 22-25, 25-17.
As one of only two freshmen on the roster, Jackson fights for her playing time and has proven to be a young talent. The hitting barrage from the whole team overpowered the Westwood defense.
The fourth set, like the third, was tight and the outcome was very much in doubt until Mesa pulled away at the end. It started point for point, at one time tied 10-10. Jackson led the team this set with five kills, playing like she had a game plan heading into the match.
“I think shooting a lot helped, and looking for what’s open,” Jackson said.
With that mindset and the middle blockers acting as an impenetrable force, the Mesa Jackrabbits took advantage.
During the third set, Mesa made too many unforced errors, with at least eight free points given to Westwood. The Jackrabbits found themselves in a 9-17 hole and had to claw back into the game. A valiant effort saw them work the deficit down to 22-23, but then two consecutive errors ended Mesa’s comeback.
A challenging third set came after two easy sets in which Westwood only managed 26 points combined. Both middle blockers, who just happen to be twin sisters, showed what they could do with strong blocks and unstoppable slide shots.
Bridgit Carter said she loves having her sister on the team and that Brooklyn helps her stay competitive and continue to improve. The slide was a great offensive weapon tonight and both Carter sisters were happy to put them down consistently.
“We were more aware of it, and we played them before," Bridgit Carter said. "So, we had a good idea of where their defense would be and what it would look like."
Coach Amy Strawn was ecstatic about the win, especially after the heartbreaking loss Mesa took Wednesday night in the City Championship.
She mentioned the great adjustments Jackson made and the fact the freshmen found a way to take smart shots instead of swinging full all the time. Strawn was just as impressed with how “efficient” her middle blockers were as Bridgit Carter was a perfect 6/6.
Strawn knows there is a lot of work to be done before playoffs start later next week. But for now, they can enjoy this victory.
The Jackrabbits finish up the regular season next Tuesday at 6:00 PM for their Senior Night against Skyline.
Jacob Hedeby is a sports journalism student at Arizona State's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism covering Mesa High School athletics.