'Next Girl Up' Mentality Keeps Northwest Volleyball Unbeaten
When the defending state high school champions, in any sport, go undefeated through almost two-thirds of the following season, folks are not surprised. Good teams play well.
But, when you take a look at the roster of that team, and you see that the Lady Jags lost nine players from that championship team to graduation. Leaving just four returning players for the Lady Jags. Two seniors — one of which has been out with a knee injury since August, and the other is a transfer to the program, and they still haven’t lost a set all season it makes the eyes widen with surprise a bit.
On Monday, the Lady Jags hosted their annual Think Pink game versus Quince Orchard. The team raised $1,000 for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and improved their season-long record to 9-0 and have not lost a single set all season.
The Lady Cougars came into Northwest winning 12 of their last 13 games, and only dropping two sets all season. On paper, Monday’s game was not supposed to be a 3-0 win for Northwest, especially when you consider that the Lady Jags were playing without three starters due to illness. The Lady Jags were in a perfect spot to suffer their first loss since Nov. 17, 2014 when they fell to Severna Park in the State Finals game two seasons ago.
But that didn’t happen. The Lady Jags beat Quince Orchard 3-0 lead by sophomore captain, and last year’s MoCo Player of the Year Jenaisya Moore, along with sophomore libero Rachael Bennett, and junior setter Janice Jefferies. “We are still working on things,” said Northwest Head Coach Stephanie Blake. “A lot of people have had to play different positions randomly, and they never know who they are going to play with on the court, so they have to gel with everyone.” The Lady Jags have been hit by the injury and sickness bug this season, according to Blake.
Returning senior Leilani Mayer has been recovering from a knee injury since August. Three starters weren’t playing against an opponent that had lost just one game prior to Monday’s match. “It has been like that all season long. One girl was sick for two weeks, and now another girl is sick for two weeks.”
While Mayer is expected back on the court for the Lady Jags soon, she was cleared to play this week, said Blake. “I didn’t want to just throw her right back into games. Getting her back will be a big improvement for this team. She is 6-foot, 3-inches tall and an amazing blocker. When she went out in August, it was a big hurt because she is such a good player. When I saw the work that she had done over the off-season. She worked hard and had gotten so much better and then she got hurt.”
The Lady Jags also got help from a transfer, as senior Anya Chepurnova transferred to Northwest from Gaithersburg. She was named to the 1st Team All-County after last year’s season with Gaithersburg where she helped the Trojans to a 14-4 record. “She is a very talented player,” said Blake of Chepurnova.
Blake has set high expectations for this team. “The hope is to run the table, but we know that isn’t going to happen. Sherwood, Churchill, and Damascus are very good teams. We’ve never talked in practice about going undefeated or running the table. We play for today. Our end goal is always going back to the states, but we can’t look past the teams our schedule.”
The 9-0 Lady Jags will be on the road facing 11-2 Wootton on Thursday night, followed by two home games, the first against winless Watkins Mill on Oct.17 and a 3:30 pm match on Wednesday, Oct. 19 against 12-3 Sherwood. The Jags will travel to play 10-4-1 Damascus on Oct. 21 and end the season with matches against Springbrook and B-CC.
Top: Northwest’s Jenaisya Moore (18) slams home a point in the final set of Monday’s 3-0 victory over Quince Orchard.
Next: Senior Anya Chepurnova (8) returns a shot during Monday’s win over Quince Orchard.
Next: Northwest sophomore Nicole Reinikka (6) serves during Monday’s victory.
Next: Senior Jenaisya Moore (18) slams the ball past two Quince Orchard blockers.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.
All of the photos in this post, as well as hundreds of others from this game, are available for purchase right now at the Germantown Pulse Sports Photo Shop.