Dexter volleyball coach Carmen Morgan had an apt analogy for her team's play Thursday night at Jackson.
"There were times tonight that we looked really good, and there were times tonight we looked really bad," Morgan said. "It was like a roller coaster ride."
Dexter survived the dramatic dips of the ride in a 25-14, 20-25, 25-20 victory over the Indians in their home opener.
After a comfortable win in Game 1, the Bearcats raced out to a 6-0 lead in Game 2.
That's when Jackson started to do two things it hadn't accomplished to that point.
First, the Indians found or were given ways to get senior middle Melinna Craft touches. She recorded three consecutive kills to get Jackson on the board.
The Indians' offense, which looked out of sync for much of the first game, improved after that.
"We were struggling because our passes were kind of off," Craft said. "We were kind of throwing our setter all over the place. Pretty much we had to pick up on passing. We just had to come together and know where the holes were on the floor."
Craft finished with 10 kills after getting just one in Game 1.
"Honestly, I think it was just comfort level on the court, connecting with our setter, talking in transition," first-year Jackson coach Julie Brandmeyer said about Jackson's offensive improvement. "Whenever you talk in transition, you're able to connect so much better, and we started to believe that we were capable because we are. We just for some reason stepped out a little flat, shaken right off the bat."
Second, Jackson began to serve more aggressively.
"We're a very successful serving team, as you can see," Brandmeyer said. "It's one of our strengths, and, because it is one of our strengths, it's an area that we have confidence in. I talked to my girls about understanding the score. When you're behind, to understand when you should take a risk and when not."
The Indians recorded three service aces in a span of five points at one point in Game 2.
"You take a risk and you go for it, and you see what that can bring you," Brandmeyer said. "And serving is such a strong suit for our entire program that that is where our confidence lies. We can put teams out of system, get them rattled pretty easily where we're in control of the game just by serve."
The biggest reward of better serving was slowing down the Dexter offense, which was powerful and efficient in Game 1 thanks to good passing.
"The first set was one of our best sets," Morgan said. "Our passes were down. That made a big difference. ... And actually Jackson was having to play a lot of defense because we were getting our offense going.
"Second game, we began to make lots of mistakes. We made mistakes -- we got illegal alignment a couple times, we passed some balls that were out. We did some things that were not good, but I give Jackson credit. They came back and they played. They made adjustments, and they got that second game."
A big adjustment was slowing down Dexter's Jessica Lindsey, who recorded seven kills in the opening game.
"We made an adjustment yesterday on Jessie Lindsey," Brandmeyer joked. "We made an adjustment yesterday on her. We made sure that we played true lines, where we knew that she hit the hard angle."
Lindsey didn't record a kill in Game 2 before rebounding to get five in Game 3. She added a key ace that gave the Bearcats match point.
"She did a nice job of dropping some balls in on Jackson, which that was kind of a big moment," Morgan said.
Dexter built a 20-11 lead in Game 3 thanks in part to seven consecutive service points from Dexter setter Hannah Noe, who also had six kills.
But Jackson and Craft answered with six consecutive points. Craft recorded one ace during the sequence, but others went unreturned.
"Serving is our strongest point," Craft said. "We're very confident in our serves, and we knew that we had to execute on our serves, and we practice serving every day. We hit the ball harder and we hit our zones, and we picked on their weakest passer."
Haily Mouser, who Brandmeyer singled out for the defense she played against Lindsey, finished with nine digs, eight kills and four aces for Jackson. Miranda Craft added eight kills, while setter Alexa Kelpe had 10 digs.
"I was very happy with my team's competitiveness," Brandmeyer said. "We work really hard in transition, and defensively, I thought we did fantastic. Our defensive effort and mental toughness in Game 2 and 3 [was good]. Game 1 we came out flat. We lacked a little bit of confidence Game 1 and once we started, we realized, 'Hey we can roll with these guys.'"