MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets boys volleyball team is used to winning. But lately, they’ve had so much success that observers aren’t used to too many close matches.
On Thursday, that’s just what happened. The Jackets struggled their way against a competitive Pickerington North team before finally winning in four games.
The Panthers were ready. Coming in to the matchup, they knew this was a different Mount Vernon team from 2010; only one player returns from the team that qualified for the state tournament. But that didn’t mean the Jackets would be any less of a threat.
Mount Vernon dominated early. The team started out with an 8-3 lead thanks to some nice net play by Chris Omahan and Aaron Nixon, as well as a fantastic dig by Bryan Downs that preserved the run. Omahan ended the night with 20 kills, leading the team, and six blocks. Downs led the team with six digs.
The Panthers came back with a 10-4 run of their own. Mount Vernon became sloppy, mistiming several bumps and sets. But the team rallied back on an Omahan spike, which paved the way for a 25-18 win in Game 1.
“Overall, this game was a bit sloppy for us,” Omahan admitted.
The second game went much like the first. Mount Vernon charged out to a 17-8 lead before the Panthers could answer. Steve Barcus, who led the team with 38 assists, had two of his four kills in that run.
“When I’m up front, I can be another attacker,” Barcus explained. “If I start attacking, the other team can come after me instead of someone else, and I can dump it off to them.”
“By (Barcus) dumping off once or twice in a set,” Omahan explained, “it opens up the outside. It opens up a hard shot by me or Josh (Beougher).”
Pickerington North responded. Playing the net well, the Panthers took advantage of more Yellow Jacket miscues to bring the score to 21-19. However, two big Ethan Beckholt kills helped bring the Jackets a 25-21 win in Game 2.
The sloppiness continued in Game 3, along with some tired legs. The Jackets weren’t chasing balls like they had in the previous games, and they let Game 3 slip away, 25-18.
“We were much more fired up for the first two games,” Barcus said. “We let them get into our heads in that third game. We made a lot of errors and gave up a lot of points.”
Pickington North’s Scott Conway was masterful at serves, scoring seven points, including three aces, in Game 3 alone. Sam Lambert stepped forward on defense with multiple blocks.
By Game 4, the two most experienced players on the court — Omahan and Lambert — were responsible for leading their respective teams through the most exciting game of the night.
Both players seemed to be all over the ball in Game 4. Trailing, 17-14, Omahan’s huge spike appeared to give Mount Vernon a second wind. But that was just momentary; Lambert responded in kind on the next play.