Osseo senior Jackie Jones has attended concerts and state volleyball tournaments at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
It’s her turn to take center stage this week. No. 2 seed Osseo (28-1) plays Rochester Mayo (24-4) at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center.
“It still doesn’t seem real,” Jones said. “I cannot wait to step on that court with my best friends and have the time of my life.”
Orioles coach Bill Quan credited Jones, an outside hitter who plays well in all facets of the game, for exuding a presence.
“Other players feed off her confidence and senior leadership,” Quan said.
Jones spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about Osseo’s special season, what the team learned from its only loss and never letting opponents see her sweat.
Q: Did you have some sense this would be a special season?
A: We definitely knew that we were going to have a great season coming in. I had no idea we’d be 28-1. But from tryouts on we’ve had a great feeling. We had the bitterness of losing in the section final last year and we did not want to have that feeling again.
Q: What victory or victories validated your prediction?
A: Definitely beating Blaine in three games fueled the fire early in the season. We thought, ‘Wow, we can do this. We can compete with these really good teams.’ When we met Champlin Park later in the season we played really well. And that was the other team in our section we were concerned about. So that’s when we really knew this is our year.
Q: What did you learn from your loss against Chanhassen?
A: It was kind of a rough match for us all. None of us were really on our games. We were in a slump we couldn’t get out of. We couldn’t find the oomph to push us through in the third game and win the match. We definitely learned that we are not unstoppable. It scared us a little bit but it definitely made us stronger as a team. It made us want to win that much more.
Q: Coach Quan said your team doesn’t have a go-to hitter but that you get a lot of important kills. What’s been clicking so well for you?
A: I don’t know, I just try to contribute all around. I think my hitting has really come along this season. My team gets the ball into my hands at the right time and it just works out.
Q: He also called you a steady player who doesn’t get rattled. Has that always been the case or is it a senior’s confidence?
A: I think that’s always been a part of how I play but all the experience helps. I think as a team we all have that kind of calm. When things get rough we don’t freak out. We just take a deep breath and come together.
Q: If you would have had your preference, would have played Blaine in a section final rematch?
A: We were struggling with that decision, actually. Watching [Blaine vs. Champlin Park in the semifinals] we were about as nervous as they were. But we were happy with the outcome either way.
Q: Champlin Park doesn’t have a lot of recent experience in a section final. So were you worried about coming out flat because people thought it was an easier matchup than Blaine?
A: I wasn’t concerned at all. We all knew what was at stake and we knew Champlin Park was going to come out and play their best game. We knew we had to bring it.
David La Vaque