Jackson volleyball team stages big comeback against Notre Dame

Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Jackson's Molly Qualls passes the ball as teammate Sara Thompson looks on during the third game of Tuesday's match at Notre Dame. Jackson won 20-25, 26-24, 25-23.

Down one game and trailing 24-18 in a must-win second game, the Jackson volleyball team appeared overmatched and tired as they faced Notre Dame on the Bulldogs' home floor.

The Indians were all but beaten.

And as unlikely as it may have seemed at the time, that never happened.

Jackson got off the mat with an 8-0 run to beat Notre Dame in the second game, then won a wild third game to beat the Bulldogs 20-25, 26-24, 25-23.

"It's probably one of our best comebacks I would say in seven years that I know of," Jackson coach Maile Gannon said. "To keep them away from match point, eight points they had ... fantastic, great mental capacity. Just intensity and playing as best as they possibly could. It was great."

Jackson's Chelsea Fowler, left, and Melinna Craft block against Notre Dame's Amy Wibbenmeyer during the first game of Monday's match at Notre Dame Regional High School. (Kristin Eberts)

The Indians (9-5) refused to fold in the second game as they rattled off eight straight points to force a third game.

"Our momentum carried us over a lot," Jackson senior Kelsey McDowell said. "It helped us to keep rolling points and rolling points. Our passes were good and our defense was amazing. We just stayed focused by making sure we got our serves in, and not really focusing on the crowd but focusing on the game itself."

The Bulldogs trailed 17-13 in the first game before closing with a 12-3 run.

"It was kind of a slap in the face," Jackson senior Natalie Miller said. "We were so pumped coming out in the gym and we were going with them point for point, and then after that it was kind of like an eye opener that we're going to have to play harder."

Gannon said her team had trouble handling the Bulldogs' serves.

Jackson players celebrate after winning the second game during Monday's match against Notre Dame at Notre Dame Regional High School. The Indians scored the final eight points of the game for a 26-24 victory. (Kristin Eberts)

"We just didn't pass the ball very well," Gannon said. "We were out of system a lot. We couldn't get a good offensive swing. We'd send the ball over by a free ball or a back row attack handball, and Notre Dame was able to run their quick offense and put the ball away."

Notre Dame gained control of the second game. The Bulldogs broke from an 11-11 tie with a 9-2 spurt and stretched that to 24-18.

Jackson's rally set up a dramatic third game in which neither team led by more than two points.

"Both teams were really hitting well and running their offense and blocking well," Miller said. "We would get a block and they would get a block, or we would come back with a big kill and they would come right back and send us something we couldn't return. It was just an aggressive game all the way around."

Notre Dame forged ahead 23-22, but the Indians again refused to go away.

Notre Dame's Myriah Bernard battles at the net against Jackson's Natalie Miller during the second game.

Miller recorded two straight kills and the Bulldogs couldn't handle a Jackson hit on match point.

"We've struggled. We've had a tough preseason," Gannon said. "We haven't been consistent. We've had a lot of errors on our side. So we've really been working hard on trying to reduce those errors.

"For us to come through in the clutch like that without committing errors, that's fantastic.

"No matter how many times we play Notre Dame it's always a dogfight. It's always something."

Miller finished with eight kills. Molly Qualls led the Indians' defensive effort with 18 digs, while Chelsea Fowler had 11 digs, six kills and five aces. McDowell had a team-high nine kills, 20 assists and five digs.

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