The Lady Devils volleyball team won the area championship Thursday on their home court in two games against last year’s title team, Pike County.
Jackson won both games against Pike 26-24 after taking Kendrick down in two games to reach the championship round of the area 4-AAA tournament.
In Game 1 against Kendrick, the Lady Devils beat the Cherokees 25-10. Jackson won game 2 by a score of 25-12.
Winning the title game gave the Lady Devils their 29th win of the season.
Lady Devils head coach Michael Smith said he challenged his team to keep the momentum on their side.
“Momentum was key throughout the set,” Smith said. “I tried to tell them, ‘It’s a long game. Twenty-five points is a lot of points. And there’s going to be ebbs and flows.’
“We’ve talked a lot about being mentally tough. This is a young team,” Smith added, noting the majority of his players are sophomores.
The Lady Devils this year count two seniors and two juniors among its ranks, and Smith said two freshmen were also pulled up from the junior varsity team this year as well.
“It’s a young team and a young program, so that mental toughness isn’t always immediate,” Smith said. “We’ve really had to work on it this year.”
That toughness did become apparent, however, in the early minutes of Jackson’s second game against Pike when, down 0-3, the Lady Devils battled back with six unanswered points.
The Lady Devils also were able to tie the game at 16, at 18, at 20, at 23 and at 24 points, before grabbing the final two to take the title.
“We averaged 350 points at practice, so when you’re talking about hanging in there and doing those kinds of things, that’s important,” Smith said. “We work and we talk about the stress of situations and working hard. They really brought it. We were down in the 20s in both sets and for them to fight back and to have the confidence in their ability and the confidence in each other to go out there and beat a good team ... it was bringing the fight to the game and us being in control of how we play. I’m so proud.”
The team’s 29th win improves over last season’s 26 wins and put the Lady Devils at a 29-11 record in a year they’ve competed against some of the toughest teams around the state in larger classifications.
“They work so hard. We were here all summer. They practice every day. We’re here on Fridays before the football games,” Smith said. “There’s just no end to how hard they’re willing to work. And as a leader of a program I can put as much on the table as possible, but they’ve got to go and take it, and tonight proved that they really did it.”
The Lady Devils were due to visit Hampton High on Tuesday to finish regular season play, hoping for their 30th win before heading into the state playoffs Oct. 19 as a No. 1 seed.