MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon High School boys volleyball team has already had a good week.
The first state rankings came out on Monday and had the Yellow Jackets ranked No. 4 in Division I. Then on Tuesday, they maintained their No. 17 ranking in the ESPN Rise Midwest Fab 50. They were also seeded second at this weekend’s Centerville Elite Tournament, which showcases the top eight teams in the state.
So it is easy to see why they should have been on guard against the visiting Hilliard Bradley Jaguars on Thursday night. The Jackets came out aggressive, however, and didn’t let up. The end result was a three-game win, 25-13, 25-10, 25-16, over the Jaguars, a first-year program.
Josiah Burney, making his first varsity start, made quite an impact for the Jackets in Game 1. After Bradley scored the first two points, Mount Vernon got the ball back and Burney served up three straight points. That started a 9-1 run for the Jackets and opened up a lead. The lead grew to 10 over the next few serves, and it became clear the Jaguars had no chance of stopping the Jackets. Kill after kill, Mount Vernon slipped ahead for the 25-13 win.
Much like Game 1, the Jackets poured it on early in Game 2. Cassell began to sub out some of his starters in favor of players off the bench, but Hilliard Bradley wouldn’t have known it. The Jackets didn’t miss a beat, jumping out to a 10-3 lead. A seven-point run served up by Burney helped establish a 21-7 advantage as the Jackets pounded four kills and registered a block. The teams traded serves down the stretch as Mount Vernon took a two-game lead, 25-10.
“This was nice because we are battling a couple of injuries right now,” said Cassell. “We got to play different kids, and it was nice to give them different opportunities. Josiah Burney has been working hard in practice and has never played varsity yet. He came in and did a nice job for us. ... It makes him feel good. In practice, he’ll fly around and give us 100 percent all the time.”
Now firmly in control, the Jackets’ confidence continued to expand in Game 3. Mount Vernon registered kill after kill as the Jaguars fell further and further behind. A 7-2 run served up by Chris Ingersol and Burney started things off. Bradley began to fight back, cutting the lead to three, but two hits out of bounds started an 8-2 spurt by the Jackets. The Jaguars kept fighting, pulling within five, 19-14, only to see the Jackets score six of the last eight points to take the match, 25-16.
“This feels good; it is my first time starting on varsity,” said Burney. “I thought it went pretty well. ... It was very important (for us to be aggressive). We had to stay aggressive because if you relax, they gives them hope to think they can win.”
“(Kids stepping up) is what I was hoping for,” said Cassell. “Sometimes you never know. We had some kids not necessarily playing out of position, but doing some things that we haven’t done much of.”
Chris Omahan led the Jackets with 11 kills and three blocks. Carter Cassell had 27 assists; Ingersol had nine assists, three kills and three blocks; Ben Bennett added six kills and four blocks; and Andre Nixon had five kills and six blocks. Burney added five blocks, and Ethan Beckholt had three kills and four blocks.
“It was nice to get (playing time) because that will help make us better when we actually do face tougher opponents,” said Beckholt. “It definitely boosts our confidence a lot.”
The Jackets will have just one day to prepare for the Centerville Tournament. They open the tournament with a match against Lakota West, ranked No. 8 in the state. Then, they face a second-round match-up against either Cincinnati St. Xavier (ranked No. 2) or Centerville (ranked No. 3).
“We’re looking forward to this weekend,” said Cassell. “We want to see where we are at. Hopefully, our injuries don’t cause us much issues.”
In reserve action, Mount Vernon defeated Hilliard Bradley in three games, 25-13, 17-25, 25-15. The Jackets were led by Ben Robinson, who finished with 10 points and an ace. Steve Barcus and Josh Beougher each added five points apiece.