It all started with a serve from Danilynn Schell. Within minutes of sending the game’s first service over the net, Jackson needed to call a timeout, down 6-0. That lead was stretched to 8-0 before the sophomore hit the net and cracked a smile.
Jackson never had a chance.
Schell’s serve ended the first and second set as she tallied seven aces in Kelly Walsh’s 3-0 sweep (25-7, 25-8, 25-10) on Saturday at Kelly Walsh High School. The Trojans improved to 26-4 and, more importantly, 7-0 in the Class 4A West Conference.
“It’s easy to get out there and lose your mindset and have that game be a battle,” head coach Jeff Barkell said. “You see it in the NFL and the NBA all the time, teams knock off the upper-level teams all the time because of that. So we’re just trying to make sure we stay intense, stay focused and play true to what we can do.”
Complacency has been a worry for Barkell. While the Trojans have won seven of their last eight, the long grind of the season has started to take a mental toll. It may not be evident during the games, and certainly not during Saturday, but he’s noticed it in practice.
“They are good to play games, but, man, they don’t want to come in and work hard in practice every day,” he said. “So we just talk about it, we do some mental things, we just really try to make sure they’re competing against each other every single day.”
One thing he does have working in his favor is depth. The Trojans are one of the most talented teams in the state and, if one or two of the starters are having a lackluster game, there are three off the bench that can fill in.
In lopsided wins, like both this weekend, the Trojans have even developed more depth. Juniors Brooke Abbott and Whitney Porter both saw playing time on Saturday and helped keep the intensity level high.
Developing even more depth and experience for the remainder of the season, and into future seasons, is crucial for the program’s success.
“Especially when you can put them next to a Vinich or a Dedic or a Phipps,” he said. “They’re out there and they’re seeing that they’re playing with those kids and that raises their level of intensity a little bit just by being next to that girl.”
Madison Vinich used to be one of those standout freshmen, much like how Schell was last year and Corin Carruth nearly was. Now, all three of them have developed into premier talents. Vinich led the Trojans with 11 kills on Saturday while Carruth added five and Schell had four.
Junior Hadley Lloyd continued her development and contributed five kills off the bench.
Whenever Jackson scored consecutive points, which was rare, a different Trojan ended it with an emphatic kill. It’s one trait of a quality volleyball team and something that Kelly Walsh has focused on.
“We talk about not giving up any big runs and make sure that we respond to our errors quickly and we don’t allow anything to really get us down,” Barkell said.
“I feel like we’ve been doing a much better job of that as the year has gone on.”
Kelly Walsh takes to the road next weekend for two conference matches before closing the regular season with the VolleyBowl against rival Natrona County on Oct. 19.