Above the net: Jackson’s athleticism sets her apart

Jaelyn Jackson is an athlete. The 6 foot 3 inch volleyball player is all over the court for the Warriors, and is the team’s leader. With improved team chemistry and a great supporting cast, Jackson, a two-time defending Central District Player of the Year and University of Maryland commit, has guided the Warriors to an 11-4 start to the 2013 season.

“Jaelyn is our standout and we go to her when we’re in a pinch,” said Matoaca Girls Volleyball Head Coach Warren Pruett. “But these other girls surround her and do good things as well.”

Playing volleyball since middle school and playing for Matoaca since the eighth grade, Jackson’s love for the sport is apparent. Her athleticism is something that Matoaca High hasn’t seen in the sport, as she became the first volleyball player to commit to a major college program in school history.

“I don’t think everyone grasps what an accomplishment this is,” said Pruett. “With Maryland moving to the Big Ten and having to play a powerhouse like Penn State, they are looking for the best talent they can find,” he continued. “For them to invite her to play in their program is an honor.”

At the next level, Pruett said that Jackson projects to be an outside hitter because she attacks so well- and efficiently. On the season Jackson has “attacked” 306 times and converted that into 147 kills, meaning that 47 percent of the time when she hits the ball in an attempt to score, she does.

“I’m excited about my opportunity at Maryland,” said Jackson. “It’s close enough to home, and the people there were perfect when I visited.”

The senior chose to become a Terrapin over opportunities at Michigan State and George Mason, among other schools.

Jackson has developed her Big Ten level skill set in the Central Region and through playing with the U-Turn Nationals, an AAU travel program based in Richmond.

“Playing a high level of AAU will help her adjust at Maryland,” explained Pruett. “Now she’s bigger than everyone else, but in college that won’t be the case.”

In 2013, Jackson’s leadership to the Warriors has been invaluable, and that’s a skill she’s developed over time.

“Jaelyn isn’t only a great player, she encourages us to do better,” said junior setter Taylor Morris. “She’s a great leader for this team.”

Pruett echoed that Jackson has come into her own as a leader this year, earning the team captain role along with fellow senior Sarah Temple. While the skill was always there, Jackson’s maturity caught up, and it’s been huge for the team this year. Pruett called her “another coach on the floor.”

“Our communication as a team has really improved this year,” stated Jackson. “We love each other, and that helps us to play better together.”

Morris, with 234 assists on the season, is also ample at serving the ball, as her service accuracy stands at 90.3 percent. That’s second on the team to senior Brenda Tapp, who serves with a 97.1 percent accuracy, one of the best in the Central Region. The Warriors also receive great play from Taylor Patterson on defense.

“One of the best things about having Jaelyn is that other players are challenged to play at her level,” said Pruett. “One of those players is Patterson; she’s gotten faster and had to play better defense because of practicing against Jaelyn.”

Jackson has big goals, starting with the team advancing to states this season. After that, she wants to earn a starting position at Maryland and continue to build towards her goal of playing volleyball professionally. Jackson would join Thomas Dale alum Brandon Joyner as the second professional volleyball player from the area.

At over six-foot-tall, many beg the question ‘Why not basketball?’ That answer is simple.

“I’m not good at basketball,” explained Jackson. “I love volleyball.”

Both Jackson and a united Matoaca team have bright futures, as the Warriors aim to bump, set and spike their way to postseason success. Check out @VNewsSports on twitter for updates and scores from Matoaca girls volleyball and other fall sports.


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