By Roy Fuoco
LAKELAND — The George Jenkins volleyball team appears to be doing exactly what coaches want to see their teams do. Get better as the season progresses. On Monday night, the Eagles turned in a solid all-around game en route to a 25-15, 25-20, 25-20 victory over Winter Haven at the George Jenkins gymnasium.
“We’re getting there,” George Jenkins coach Lisa Bickerton said. “We still have a few moments of inconsistencies, but they’re starting to know each other a lot better. Serve-receive is getting strong. Defense is getting stronger.”
George Jenkins can often spread around its offense. Against the Blue Devils, Bianca Johnson and Baylee Warnake formed a strong 1-2 punch. Johnson led with 13 kills and Warnake had 12 kills. The Eagles, however, also got key hits from Lilly Beardsley with four kills and Nina Norris with three.
“I can spread it out a lot,” Bickerton said.
“We run a 6-2, and I have four or five strong hitters, and I have a bench full of hitters.”
The Eagles (11-10) jumped on the Blue Devils (5-11) in the first set, surging to an 11-4 lead and never seeing its lead fall under three points.
Winter Haven tried to get back in the match in the second set. The Blue Devils took an 8-7 lead for their first lead of the match, and the score was tied 10-10. Then with Kymber Brown serving, Jenkins went on a 6-0 run to take control of the set. Winter Haven never got closer than three points the rest of the set.
The final set was the most competitive. After the Eagles stormed to a 9-3 lead, the Blue Devils came charging back and managed to tie the set, 12-12. They managed to stay within one to three point until Jenkins, leading 20-10 scored four straight points to finally take control.
“I like that we finished in three (sets),” Bickerton said. “I like that when we got down, we were able to pull ourselves out of it. We’ve been struggling with that a little. It was nice to close the sets out and not let it
go to four. Winter Haven’s been real strong against us.”
Winter Haven’s youth and inexperience showed against Jenkins. The Blue Devils stayed within striking range but struggled with consistent hitting to get over the top and communication remained an issue.
“Losing 10 seniors, it’s hard having only one returner who played,” Winter Haven coach Madison Speyerer said. “They don’t know how to work together, and that’s what we’ve been working on. We don’t talk. We don’t play as a team. When we play as a team, we’re really good. I see moments of it.”