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Jags Avenge Only Loss with Playoff Victory Over Wootton

Northwest’s quest for a fourth straight volleyball state championship continues as the Jags defeated Wootton 3-0 in the Section II Final of the 2018 MPSSAA Volleyball Class 4A Playoff tournament at Northwest Wednesday evening.

The Jaguars (15-1) exacted some revenge with the win, since the Patriots (10-4) had handed them their only loss of the season and first loss in two years in their Oct. 15 matchup.

“That loss against them really changed our entire season [and] how we had been working things,” head coach Stephanie Blake said. “We hadn’t lost since 2016, so sometimes you get in a little rut.”

Northwest’s performance in the back-and-forth five-set loss to Wootton earlier this season was a far cry from the dominant straight-set performance Wednesday night.

“It really was the best thing that ever happened to us,” Blake said. “We’ve changed everything and the girls came out with fire to just win.”

The Jags drew first blood to start the match, gaining an early lead in the opening set and riding it out to take the set 25-13.

One key area in which Northwest improved since the teams’ previous matchup is on serve receive, which made it much tougher for Wootton to get in a sustainable serving rhythm.

“We switched our lineup and so I have a new girl out there,” Blake said. “She’s a freshman, Nareen [Herrera-Davila], and she played awesome on serve receive.”

The second set was the Jags’ most efficient of the match, dropping just nine points to claim the set 25-9 and take a two-set lead.

Momentum stayed with Northwest for nearly all of the third set. Junior Nataliya Chepurnova sealed the win with a kill on Northwest’s second match point at 24-10 in the set.

“Our team could have let back and let them get in a run, and they didn’t,” Blake said. “They stopped everything, they forced Wootton to make the errors and us to capitalize on our positive play.”

Senior Jenaisya Moore finished the match with a double-double, posting 14 kills and 21 digs in addition to two blocks. Senior Rachael Bennett had 15 digs, seven kills and four aces, while sophomore Michelle Bennett logged 22 digs and three aces.