On Saturday, Coach Stephanie Blake and the Northwest Lady Jags stepped on the court at the Ritchie Coliseum at the University of Maryland in College Park to play for the 4A State Championship, for the fourth year in a row.
For the third year in a row, the Lady Jags took home the title.
For the second year in a row, Northwest junior Jenaisya Moore showed why she is arguably the best volleyball player in Maryland, as the Jags defeated Arundel High School in four games on Saturday.
“Jenaisya is always huge for us, but she couldn’t be stopped on Saturday,” said Blake. “She led us in kills, digs and solo blocks, being able to do that is just insane. She is the total package, she is an unbelievable teammate, always picking up her teammates, pushing them to be the best they can be and being their biggest fan on the court.”
To say that Moore led the team in kills is an understatement. Moore had 33 of the Jags 51 kills in the match, and 36 of the 65 total points. She also had 26 kills in the semi-final match on against. As a comparison, in the state tournament, the only performance that is close is Northern-Calvert's Amanda Chew in the 3A final with 23 kills, she also had 26 in the semi-final. No other player across all divisions had more than 20. Northern-Calvert defeated Westminster to win the 3A title.
Moore finished the title game with 33 kills on 63 total attempts, 36 points, 16 digs, and two solo blocks.
“Anyone that watches her sees her talent, but look a little further, and you will see her passion out there playing, you will see her cheering for her teammates more than she cheers for herself, you will see that she never gives up,” said Blake. “She is not as good as she is because it is easy for her, she is the athlete and player she is because of the work she puts in on a daily basis. I told her about her stats, and she said, ‘Wow, well I couldn’t have done it without my team.’”
The Jags dropped the first game of the match to the Wildcats, losing 26-24. The Jags went down early and came back from an eight-point deficit to tie the game at 19 to force it past 25 points. Blake said the Lady Jags strayed from the game plan, which resulted in the early deficit.
“Since we were down and tied it up at 19 points there was no time for us to get a bigger cushion for when Arundel would get their points,” said Blake. “Arundel is a very good team with very good players, and they got that set from us, but once we re-focused in sets two, three, and four, it was never close in scores after that.”
Indeed, it wasn’t the Lady Jags won the last three games 25-19, 25-16, and 25-11 to win their third straight championship title.
While Moore is the scoring machine for the Lady Jags, no player can do it alone, and Blake also praised the performance of her senior setter Janiece Jefferies, who she credited with helping the Lady Jags created that volleyball dynasty.
“Janiece runs our offense, she makes a horrible pass into a perfect a set, not many setters can do that,” said Blake. “You could have five Jenaisyas on a team, but without a Janiece, the Jenaisyas don’t get those points. Setters don’t get the glory that the hitters do, but without them, it’s not possible. Her freshman year is the first year we made it over the hump in the postseason; we had never won any championships before that, not a division or a region even. She was a key piece we were missing; I am so proud of the player she has turned into.”
Another player that played an important role in Northwest’s third championship, according to Blake, was junior Rachael Bennett.
“Rachael had something tough to do,” said Blake. Blake said that Bennett had to change up her game after one of the Lady Jags starters suffered a season-ending injury. “She had to rise up and play a position she was not comfortable in. But, she got comfortable being uncomfortable and she is a big reason we won that playoff match against Wootton when Janiece went out with an injury. And now look at her playing front row, and if you didn’t know her, you would think she had been there for years instead of less than a month.”
The Jags were undefeated this season and didn’t lose a game during the regular season. In fact, the Jags are 58-1 since the beginning of the 2015 season. The single loss was to Sherwood in 2016. Blake said the team went to Virginia in the preseason to play some the best teams in the neighboring state to tune up for the 2017 season. “Our season may have seemed easy, but Montgomery County has some very, very good team. The girls made it seem easy because they were prepared,” said Blake.
Blake will lose five players to graduation. However, Moore and Bennett will be returning next season. One couldn’t blame Blake for looking forward to a four-Pete.
“I am soaking this one in a little more than the others,” said Blake, “but since this year has now been over for more than 24 hours, I can’t say I haven’t thought about next year.”
Top: The Champs. Northwest’s volleyball team poses with the 4A State Championship trophy. The third straight title won by Coach Blake and her Lady Jags.
Next: Northwest's Jenaisya Moore talks to her teammates before the start of the 4A state final volleyball match against Arundel at University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum on Saturday.
Next: Northwest's Jenaisya Moore (18) goes up for a spike during Saturday's 4A state championship match against Arundel High.
Next: Northwest's Dasha Kurochkina (left) and Arundel's Brooke Watts go head to head at the net.
Next: The Wildcats' Mackenzie Meehan (4) sends the ball past the hands of the Jaguars' Jenaisya Moore (18) and Dasha Kurochkina (14).
Next: Northwest's Dasha Kurochkina (left) and Jenaisya Moore defend against the spike by Arundel's Alicia Eldredge.
Next: The Jaguars' celebrate winning their third straight girls' volleyball state championship title on Saturday.
Next: The Jags' Janiece Jefferies (center) is overcome with emotion after Saturday's state championship win.
Photos by Kim Grimes for Germantown Pulse.