After two so-so seasons, the Jewell Blue Jays’ volleyball program took flight again in 2017.
Jewell went two straight years (2015 and 2016) with just five victories each, before head coach Jessica Miller led the team to an 11-9 mark last season, 8-4 in the Casco League.
The third-place finish earned the Jays a No. 21 ranking (out of 64 at the 1A level) and a berth in the state playoffs.
Alsea defeated Jewell in three games in a first-round match, but the groundwork has been set, and the Jays are looking to pick up where they left off.
And the current season is already off to a 2-1 start for the Lady Jays, who opened the 2018 campaign with a thrilling five-set marathon win Aug. 23 at Columbia Christian, 24-26, 25-22, 29-27, 22-25, 16-14.
Jewell went 1-1 in bracket play of the Warrenton tournament Aug. 25, losing to eventual champion Culver (16-25, 19-25), but bouncing back with a two-game sweep (26-24, 25-17) over 2A Nestucca.
THE CASCO LEAGUE
Defending league champion Crosshill Christian advanced to the state semifinals before a loss to Country Christian, while Perrydale came up one win short of the state tournament.
Like most years, the private schools will be among the favorites at the 1A level.
THE LADY JAYS
Jewell had just two seniors last year (Niqui Blodgett and Emma Guillen), and the Jays only have two seniors this season: hitter Lillian Kaczenski and outside hitter/middle blocker Cheyenne Stapleton.
On top of that, the perpetually young Jewell team only has two juniors on the current roster, Haley Norman and Haven Shaw.
Rounding out this year’s lineup, the Blue Jays have sophomores Stella Gilmore, Aliyah Hart, Lillie Meier and Almeda Phillips, and freshmen Kiera Butori and Delilah Crawford.
Assisting Miller will be former Jewell player Jesika (Kaczenski) Crook.