JACKSON, Mo. -- In late September, the Jackson High School volleyball team -- in the middle of a major slump -- dropped a three-game match to Farmington.
But as Farmington found out Tuesday night, Jackson is a much different squad than the one the Knightettes faced earlier in the season.
Jackson, seeded second behind Farmington by virtue of that earlier loss, rolled past the Knightettes 15-6, 15-7 in the championship match of the Class 4A, District 1 Tournament at the Jackson Multipurpose Building.
The Lady Indians, who earlier in the evening had a much tougher time before slipping past third-seeded Poplar Bluff 4-15, 15-7, 15-9 in the semifinals, advance to Saturday's four-team sectional at Seckman High School in St. Louis.
"That was one of our lulls in the season," said a smiling Jackson coach Nancy Ellis, recalling the loss to Farmington. "I remember we had 13 missed serves and 12 service receiving errors. That alone killed us."
Farmington coach Carma Franklin, whose squad had won the past two district titles but was missing some key players off last year's squad -- including standout hitter Lisa Boyd, who received a volleyball scholarship to the University of Missouri -- had nothing but praise for Jackson.
"Jackson has improved a whole lot," she said. "They were a different team than we played a few weeks ago."
The Lady Indians, who raised their record to 21-10-1, actually fell behind Farmington 3-0 in each game. But the Knightettes (15-14-4) never really threatened other than those early spurts.
In the opening game, after Farmington scored the first three points, Jackson's Kacie Crites served 11 straight points -- four of them were aces and four others were kills by Jenna Leet -- as the Lady Indians took control.
In the second game, with the score tied 5-5, Jennifer Mesey served seven straight points -- four of them were aces -- as the Lady Indians assumed command on their way to closing out the match.
"They beat us in three when we weren't playing well," said Leet. "We peaked at the end of the season and I thought we played really well as a team tonight."
Jessica Koeper powered home eight kills and Leet added six to lead Jackson's offensive attack. Mesey had three kills, four blocks and five aces. Erin Hartmann added three kills, four blocks and 10 assists. Linden Hahs came up with nine digs and Crites contributed four aces.
Jackson had to work much harder in the semifinals against a solid Poplar Bluff squad that finished the year with a sparking 27-4-2 record.
After the Lady Mules rolled 15-4 in the first game, they opened up a quick 4-1 lead in the second game before the Lady Indians came to life and went on to prevail 15-7. The third and deciding game was tied 9-9 before Jackson scored the final six points to win 15-9.
Leet had 14 kills and three blocks against the Lady Mules while Mesey had 11 kills, 11 blocks, 16 digs and five aces. Hartmann recorded four kills, six blocks and 23 assists. Koeper had four kills and nine digs, Crites had seven blocks and five aces and Hahs added seven digs.
"Poplar Bluff has a good team. Their record shows it," said Ellis.
And Ellis believes the Lady Indians showed Tuesday night that they are also a good team as they captured their first district title since 1998.
"I still see moments of up and down play, but for the most part we play hard," she said. "I'm really proud of them."
Farmington also had an extremely tough match in the semifinals before slipping past fourth-seeded Hillsboro 13-15, 15-6, 15-13.
Leet and Mesey both were selected to the first-team all-district team that was announced following the tournament. Also making the squad were Farmington's Tamara Richardet and Suzy Snyder; Poplar Bluff's Jera Ridens; and Hillsboro's Jenny Marshall.
Hartmann and Koeper both made the all-district second team.