Add up the injuries, the opening matchup and simply the experience of teams around the region and that combo sealed Jackson’s 0-2 fate at the 4A West regional tournament in Cody.
But there were positives to take from the weekend and the season with Jackson showing signs that its program is coming close to turning the page on a long, lackluster chapter.
Jackson opened Friday against Kelly Walsh, the defending state champions which lost only one game all season. The Trojans quickly dispatched Jackson in three sets, though the third showed signs of fight for the Broncs, going 25-18 after Jackson dropped the first two without reaching double digit points in either.
“Kelly Walsh destroyed everyone,” Jackson coach Tera Yantzi said. “But the last set we really fought and pulled out amazing plays. We did not die or give up easy.”
The Broncs returned Saturday for an elimination game against Evanston, which the Red Devils took in three sets to bounce Jackson. That game came with a much better fight from the Broncs, which lost the sets 25-16, 26-16, 25-22.
It also came with signs of hope for what’s to come next season. Faye Kudar had six kills, one block and led the defense with 17 digs. Bella Santomauro paced the offense with seven kills, and Ashlyn Funk came away with 10 digs. All three players are underclassmen expected to return to the floor in 2020.
The Broncs finished the season 8-19 overall without a conference win, but it wasn’t without moments of promise. Twelve games into the season Jackson was 6-6, with eyes on making a run toward the postseason and potentially being a surprise to volleyball teams around the state.
But lack of confidence largely led to a handful of heartbreaking losses, and a pair of injuries to key players all but squashed Jackson’s chances by the time regionals rolled around.
“I’d say we definitely improved from the beginning to the end,” Yantzi said of her first season at the helm. “It was definitely a change, the culture on our team. This year could have been a lot worse if it weren’t for the leadership of our captains Kaitlin Meyring and Jennifer Feuz. We’re looking forward to next year and beyond.”