Up To The Test

Unbeaten Jayhawks Down Mercyhurst North East, Improve To 18-0

Jamestown Community College’s Jenna Caskey blocks a shot at the net during Thursday’s NJCAA non-conference volleyball match against Mercyhurst North East at the Physical Education Complex. P-J photo by Scott Reagle

For the first time in a good, long while, the Jamestown Community College volleyball program battled a touch of adversity on Thursday evening at the Physical Education Complex.

The Jayhawks relinquished early leads in both the first and third sets against Mercyhurst North East, but battled back in on both occasions for a 25-19, 25-17, 25-21 NJCAA non-conference victory.

Coach Ashley Lund’s team now sits at 18-0 in a game that was scheduled for some much-needed competition at this point in the season.

“We have a really long break here for the next couple weeks,” said Lund. “This is the only game we’ve had since last Tuesday and then we play on Sunday. … Then we have all next week off until Saturday and then all the next week off until Saturday. It’s nice to be able to have (Mercyhurst North East) so close that we were able to get in this extra game and play to keep the kids fresh.”

The Jayhawks will travel to Cayuga CC for POD play on Sunday before another layoff until the start of the Western New York Athletic Conference Tournament at Erie CC on Oct. 20.

Jamestown Community College’s Kendyl Austin (11) spikes the ball between two Mercyhurst North East defenders during Thursday’s NJCAA non-conference volleyball match at the Physical Education Complex. P-J photo by Scott Reagle

The Saints broke out to a 4-1 lead in the first frame after Paige Morehouse struck an overhand and Rebecca Winkelman smacked a serve that would not make it back across the net.

Kendyl Austin broke the Jayhawks out of their daze in the early points with back-to-back kills, while Mercyhurst North East offered some points of its own in return following a missed serve and a carry.

With everything deadlocked at 8-8, the Jayhawks’ Megan Gominiak hit a pair of well-struck overhands to continue the momentum. Madison Russo added to that push with a great save that was finished off with another big overhand from Austin.

Jamestown CC picked up its lead for good at 14-12 after a strong kill from the middle by Gominiak.

“We’re pushing her to a faster pace,” Lund said of her freshman middle hitter. “She’s certainly not accustomed to that, so she’s been adjusting and she’s finally getting it. She’s seeing the positive that is coming out of the faster pace and the openness that is coming with that. She had a great practice yesterday, so I knew that today would probably transition into that (performance) and it certainly did.”

The Saints hindered themselves with hitting errors down the stretch while Jenna Caskey got into the groove for the hosts with an overhand and a tipped-block to finish off the opening set. Kaylin Brumagin ended the game with a strong winner.

The middle set offered the most confident performance from the Jayhawks, who broke out to a 7-3 margin, using a service ace from Emma Wirsen and a one-handed push by Brumagin. Morehouse was able to stem the tide with a block to keep the hosts’ lead at four points, but Gominiak and Austin recorded back-to-back kills in response.

After hitting a hard overhand, Austin switched over to an off-speed shot in the face of blocking pressure on the ensuing point for another winner.

“It keeps the defense on the other side on their toes,” Lund said of the changeup on Austin’s swing. “If you are able to hit the big ball, but then you can come back and hit the soft shot, the roll, the tip, whatever…and place it within their defense it changes the whole game because now they don’t know what she’s going to send.”

In the closing points, Winkelman rallied her bench with a wild save at the baseline, but Brumagin fired back that desperate effort on the way to an easy win.

Two games in the hole, the Saints went down swinging as they opened up a 6-0 lead to begin the third, opening with a tip winner by Alexis White. That lead continued on the way to a 7-3 margin as the Jayhawks suffered from some miscommunication before eventually righting the ship with another off-speed overhand by Austin.

Back-to-back spikes by Caskey granted the hosts an 11-8 advantage while Gominiak added another winner on the way to victory.

The Jayhawks earned their 18th win of the season after Wells picked up her 30th assist of the game on a dish to Austin.

NOTES: Wells finished with two kills, 17 digs and one block as well. … Austin had four aces, 12 kills and eight digs; Caskey two aces, nine kills, 13 digs and one block; Wirsen three aces and 10 digs; Brumagin six kills, two digs and two blocks; and Gominiak bagged seven kills and one block.