Female Area Athlete of the Week: Jones shines in Verndale’s win over Pillager
Jones' continuous effort has her diving everywhere to help the Vendale Pirates to victory.
From serving to playing back row to hitting, Tess Jones does it all for Verndale.
The Pirates senior last week proved it with a 15 kill, five ace serve, 10 dig, seven set assist and two-block performance against Park Region rival Pillager in a Verndale win.
“I just focus on getting the ball in and making smart plays,” Jones said. “Just putting the ball in the right place, so we can get the point and keep the momentum going.”
Verndale head coach Alicia Strayer said Jones played with great aggressiveness.
“She was diving all over the floor,” Strayer said. “She had some good set assists and was swinging hard.”
Effort and attitude are two characteristics Jones has that give her the ability to perform at a high level.
“Giving credit to other teammates as well, because it’s really a good pass that sets up a good set,” Jones said. “I just rely on being mentally focused. Remaining calm and finding the inner strength to like ‘OK, you got to get this next kill, you got to get this next pass, you got to get this next set’ just focus on what you can do and the team will follow.”
Strayer said it’s Jones' work ethic that sets her apart.
“She has the drive you want to have in every player,” Strayer said. “She is willing to improve all the time and is looking for critiques. She can jump high and hit hard.”
In the back row, Jones performs quite well being one of Verndale's top dig collectors.
“Just getting to the spot and knowing that I’m going to get this ball,” Jones said. “If it’s a tip I’m going to get there, if it’s hit to line I’m going to move to the line. Just being ready for any situation that’s going to happen and being ready to go.”
Strayer added: “She is all over the court and covers the floor really well. She picks up the ball that other players don’t get. She can get up off the floor after diving for the ball to get a dig to get a kill in the same rally point. Definitely a versatile player.”
Last season, Jones tallied 180 kills and 292 digs for the Pirates as well as 268 set assists. Her improvements come from putting extra time in the gym.
“Working with my coaches and weight training coach, I put a lot of time with him and he really helps me,” Jones said.
Strayer added: “Her first year she only played back row. So she started there with her passing and in her last two years, she’s improved her hitting and that kind of completed her. She has good passing, setting and hitting.”
Jones’ serve is valuable to the Pirates as well.
“Her serve is very important,” Strayer said. “I can trust she can hit her spots and hit the spots I ask her to hit. She has been doing a jump serve here and there and those have been getting her more aces because those are harder to receive.”
The best moments for Jones on the court are when one of her Verndale teammates gets a block.
“It’s really exciting because we are all short,” Jones said. “Or someone makes a really incredible play like a one-handed dig or just an unbelievable ball that gets over the net. It’s just exciting to get the momentum going.”
As a leader and captain, Jones learned a lot from the captains before her.
“I’m just trying to be the best role model I can be for the other kids,” Jones said. “Just focusing on each individual game. We can play the best we can and do what works.”
Her consistent willingness to be coached and improve also makes her a good leader.
“It shows the players that she is a great role model,” Strayer said. “She is always positive and cheers on her teammates and is willing to help them out. She is the type of athlete every coach wants to coach. She’s willing to grow at any point and try to help anytime.”
Along with volleyball, Jones plays softball and basketball and even tried tennis this year before volleyball got started late in the fall. Her favorite, however, is volleyball which she will play in college at Dakota Wesleyan in South Dakota.
“My volleyball team is like my family,” Jones said. “All my friends are on the team. It’s a fast-paced game. There are a lot of ups and downs. It just has that family feel. Everyone is always so encouraging and going to practice is always so fun. We are just working hard.”
Other notable performances:
Volleyball: Lauren Bordwell, Pillager, tallied 14 kills and 33 digs in the week.
Tess Jones, Verndale, tallied 15 kills, five ace serves, 10 digs, seven set assists and two blocks.
Taylor Jordan, Little Falls, tallied 37 set assists.
Abbyson Gravelle, Wadena-Deer Creek, tallied 32 set assists.
Madison Carsten, Wadena-Deer Creek, tallied 19 kills and 11 digs
Kate Bolz-Andolshek, Pequot Lakes, tallied 11 kills and 10 digs.
Rita Ganley, Pequot Lakes, tallied her 1,000th set assist.
Highlights: She tallied 15 kills, five ace serves, 10 digs, seven set assists and two blocks.