Jaguars defeat Rockets in five set thriller

This current volleyball season has a handful of unknowns stemming from effects of the coronavirus, but one thing remains certain: the Mercy and Assumption rivalry will not lose any of its significance. The Jaguars took down the Rockets in five sets on Tuesday evening at Assumption (19-25, 25-23, 25-27, 25-23, 18-16). 

However, the victory was more that just a huge win in the season opener. Dating back to Oct. 9, 2014, the Jaguars had lost 15 consecutive matches against their rival. The squad led by seniors Allison Holloway and Fallan Lanham made it their mission to snap the streak. 

The duo combined for 38 kills, and continually made key plays down the stretch, especially in the fourth set. With the Rockets threatening, they made countless plays to keep Mercy ahead.

“I was speechless”, Lanham said. “We’ve been practicing in masks and getting through all of these different challenges. It was just an amazing feeling and we played our absolute hardest.”

In today’s world, things can change in an instant when it comes to athletics. For Holloway, this was an opportunity to create a lasting impression. “We came in here knowing that if our season were to get cancelled tomorrow, that whoever wins would be the better team”, she explained.

Lanham and Holloway have built a relationship on and off the court that has been the result of friendship before high school. 

“Allison and I have been playing together since eighth grade at Saint Aloysius”, Lanham said. “We’ve always been close and coming on the floor together makes it ten times better for our connection.”

Mercy head coach Matt Thomerson was pleased with the team effort and the leadership down the stretch. “The bottom line is that our seniors did exactly what they were supposed to do”, he said. “They took control and did a good job, and we got the win.”

Despite losing a plethora of contributors from last year’s state championship squad, Assumption showed flashes of greatness. 

“We had our opportunities there to close this match out,” Assumption head coach Ron Kordes explained. “We did not take advantage of it and that’s what you have to learn to do. When you have something in your grasp, you have to reach out and grab it.”

The Rockets’ balanced attack will once again be hard to contain. Despite only having four kills in the first three sets, sophomore outside hitter Sydney Helmers left her mark on the match. In the fourth, she exploded for nine kills and then tallied five more in the final shortened set. 

“I think Helmers had a game that we’re going to have to learn how to stop”, Thomerson explained. “She was on fire tonight.”

Kordes was pleased with Helmers’ performance and is excited for her future. “In the first couple sets, she (Helmers) was very tentative”, he said. “But she’s a sophomore, and I was real proud of the way she came back and played in the latter part of that match. Hopefully that gives her the confidence to continue to play like that. She is so capable and that’s a positive that can be taken away of what happened tonight.”

Caroline Cermack had 11 kills for Assumption while Natalie Kirzinger recorded six. The Rockets (0-1) will host Presentation on Thursday at 7:00. 

Mercy (1-0) will return to action this weekend in the Louisville Invitational Volley Tournament. Chloe Newton also had nine kills for the Jaguars.

“It was fun”, Thomerson said. “We stayed resilient and focused. We pulled out a win; it’s a good feeling. We had two seniors out tonight in Elena Scott and Jaymison Summers. It was tough to play without them, but we fought through it. It’s a huge boost for morale; the season is looking great and we’re just excited to play.”

Replacing Scott and Summers is no simple task, but Mercy was able to edge past Assumption. “With Elena and Jaymison out, Fallan and I knew that we would have to pick it up, especially with this being our first game”, Holloway added.

The two powerhouses are scheduled to meet again on October 8th at Mercy.