With four players on its roster 5-foot-11 or taller, it's a safe bet the Jefferson City volleyball team is going to be pretty tough when throwing up a block.
Add in the fact the defenders on the back row are doing a good job picking up anything that does get through, and you've got a good recipe for success.
The Lady Jays showcased that ability Monday night, turning aside a scrappy Fatima team by a 25-18, 25-19 score at Fleming Fieldhouse.
"We're relying a lot on that front line," Jefferson City coach Chris Meyer said. "We've got some big kids up there that we're expecting to do their job and take away a portion of the floor. With that said, we're asking our defense on the floor to read based on what those (blockers) are doing and give ourselves chances on the floor as well."
That was on display the whole match, but particularly during the first game.
After Fatima raced out to a 7-3 lead, Jefferson City upped the pressure at the net and eventually pulled even at 13.
After an Abbi McKnelly kill gave Jefferson City its first lead at 14-13, the Lady Jays were off to the races.
"They're tall, they're athletic, they're a great group, a great front line," Fatima coach Mark Bockstruck said. "The only advantage we had on the front row was when the setter came onto the front and we tried to exploit it. And we did, but when you only have that one option, it really limits how you run your offense."
The Lady Jays built the lead to seven points on two occasions, including the final margin.
The trend continued into the second game, where Jefferson City jumped out to a 7-3 lead, the last point coming on a block by Makenzy Kliethermes.
"We're working on relentless pursuit, like we did last year," Meyer said. "That means several things to us, but the big thing is making sure there is no ball that hits the ground without effort from us."
The Lady Comets could have folded at that point, but refused to do so. They ripped off four straight points to tie it at 7, the first of nine ties in the game.
"We never really let J.C. get away from us," Bockstruck said. "The girls are fighters, they're competitors, they did a great job. ... I'm very, very proud of my team."
However, the Lady Jays had the better finishing kick. Jefferson City won seven of the final eight points to take the game, with Sloan Pleus and McKnelly putting down two kills each during that spurt.
"We talk about playing to win," said Meyer, whose team improved to 6-5-1. "There's a difference in playing to win and not playing to lose. We tend to get stagnant some times when we're ahead. We talked about continuing to push through to win that game at the end."
The loss was the first of the season for Fatima, which started the season with 11 straight wins as the defending Class 2 state champion and is the top-ranked team this season.
"We lost seven seniors last year and people have been counting us out this year, they really have," Bockstruck said. "I've heard it from refs, I've heard it from other teams' parents, even from my friends who say, "What are you going to do this year now that you lost seven seniors?' This is a new team, the main thing these girls want to do is prove we're our own team, we're not last year's team"
"... It's an outstanding start and we hung with J.C., which is ranked No. 7 in Class 4. That's outstanding."
Jefferson City, which returns to action today at Rolla, was led by McKnelly's 12 kills, Mallory York's nine digs and Maggie Albert's 21 assists.
For Fatima, which will travel today to Owensville, Kayla Nilges had eight kills and Bailey Berhorst and Shelby Thoenen had five each. Emily Keilholz handed out 17 assists, Angela Keilholz had nine digs and Berhorst added eight digs.
In the JV match, Jefferson City improved to 8-3 by dropping Fatima 25-21, 25-17. Mary Vandelicht had six kills, Jenna Massie had 16 assists and Nicole Martin and Mary Wehmeyer had three blocks apiece.
Jefferson City took a 25-14, 19-25, 27-25 victory in the freshman match.
Maddi Stone had six kills for the Lady Jays, Janice Steacy had five digs and Katelyn Runzi had 10 assists.