MOUNT VERNON — The team was in high spirits. The crowd was unusually energized. And the entire gym had an overall pink glow.
For one night, the Yellow Jackets looked more like the Pink Jackets. It was all for a good cause.
The annual “Volley for the Cure” brought a large crowd to Mount Vernon High School Thursday, both to bring awareness to the need to find a cure for cancer, and to witness how much the girls volleyball team had improved this season.
And they have improved. They came out firing against Watkins Memorial, and never let up. Eventually the Yellow Jackets won in straight games, 25-18 25-13 25-18. The win is only their second on their home court all season.
“They really wanted to play this game,” Mount Vernon head coach Ericka Feick said. “They look forward to it all year long.”
Volley for the Cure is an annual event which helps raise awareness of breast cancer among high school students, staff and the community. Since its inception in 2007, the event has raised over half a million dollars for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. To mark the event, both teams wore pink and white, and fans were encouraged to do the same.
As for the match itself, it wasn’t much of a contest.
The Jackets started off as if it were their last game. Taylor Boucher and Courtney Burke were aggressive right from the start. They used their size and strength to overpower the Watkins Memorial forwards. Knowing they were outsized, the Warriors responded with tips over the net. The strategy never worked.
“We weren’t putting any pressure on them. None of our key plays worked,” Watkins Memorial head coach Holly Owens said.
So the Warriors switched their strategy in the second game. They attacked the backcourt with spikes and high lobs. The Yellow Jackets switched to defense, using the athleticism of Melissa Hall and Abree Green. The Jackets ultimately won game two thanks to great blocks by Alex Miglin and Burke, and the serving of Kate Reynolds, who led all servers with nine points including two aces.
“They kept their energy going. We lost the last match, and they know we shouldn’t have lost. I think that stuck in their minds,” Feick said.
Watkins still had one final surge left. They took a 14-12 lead in the third game thanks to good teamwork, including the setting skills of Alisan Miller, who was subbing for an injured Randi Costo, and the play of Katie Park at net.
“It came together in the third game. They were more prepared,” Owens said.
When Burke scored on a vicious kill late in the third game, it drained the energy out of the Warriors.
“Courtney Burke has realized that, as a senior, her days of playing volleyball on this team are numbered,” Feick said. “She’s been really stepping up her game.”
So just how far has the Mount Vernon girls volleyball team come this season?
“We’ve really come together as a team. The girls have learned to do more things, to become more versatile. I’m proud of them,” Feick said.
The Yellow Jackets travel to Big Walnut on Tuesday before wrapping up their regular season at home Thursday against New Albany.
The Mount Vernon junior varsity team had equal success, shutting down Watkins Memorial 25-15, 25-13. Alyssa Crow led all servers with five aces on 10 points.
The Yellow Jackets freshman team also won, 25-19 25-19. Emily Nussbaum led the way with four aces.