Paige Jones’ serve powers Michigan past Purdue

Sunday, October 7, 2018 - 4:50pm

Freshman outside hitter Paige Jones has already notched 175 kills, 108 digs and 12 blocks in her debut campaign this season.

Freshman outside hitter Paige Jones has already notched 175 kills, 108 digs and 12 blocks in her debut campaign this season. Buy this photo
Evan Aaron/Daily

Paige Jones has found a new home inside Cliff Keen Arena. Hailing from New Bremen, Ohio — a 158-mile drive from Ann Arbor — Michigan’s 6-foot-1 freshman outside hitter has dazzled all season long.

In her debut campaign, she has already notched 175 kills, 108 digs, and 12 blocks in the 55 sets she’s played. Perhaps even more impressive, her 22 service aces mark a team high. Jones is the only Michigan starter with a jump serve — a technique in volleyball where the player adds power and height to their serve by using a leaping approach to strike the ball. The jump serve is no easy feat; the fact that the ball must travel 30 feet from the service line to the net and cross above the 7-foot-4 height of the tape makes the skill tough to master.

The Wolverines (15-2 overall, 4-2 Big Ten), ranked No. 16 in the AVCA Coaches Poll, relied on Jones’ jump serve throughout the match to power them past No. 14 Purdue (14-3, 3-3) on Friday in front of a packed Cliff Keen Arena. Jones stepped up when she was called upon, delivering a staggering five aces en route to Michigan’s 25-15, 25-16, 25-14 sweep of the Boilermakers.

“Paige has been working hard on that serve — she hasn’t done it since her junior year of high school until this season,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen. “When we played Penn State, they had a jump server who was ripping it, and I think her seeing another jump server who was ripping it was the best thing for her. She’s been trying to get comfortable with it, so she hasn’t really been bringing the pace that we’d like, but tonight she came blasting it.”

Added junior opposite Sydney Wetterstrom with a smile and a chuckle: “I’m glad she can serve it like that, because I tried it and it was not successful.” 

Jones’ serve swings momentum in Michigan’s favor when it needs it most. Her five-point service run in the first set put the Wolverines ahead for good. The run started with a bang — Jones gave Michigan a 12-5 lead when she unleashed a missile from the service line that bounced at the feet of the opposing libero after Purdue’s first timeout. Following the clean ace, the six Wolverines on the court threw their arms into the air and embraced each other in a huddle at the center of the court. When asked about the impact Jones’ serve has on Michigan’s entire approach, Rosen praised his freshman.

“We really need her serve,” Rosen said. “She’s going to be a bit more prone to error than other servers but I’m okay with that. Tonight she was really bringing it and certainly got into a good groove.”

Jones comes from a family tree full of athletes — her father played college basketball, her mother ran track, and both her older sisters play collegiate volleyball. Growing up, Paige competed in a trio of sports that kept her busy year-round before electing to focus on volleyball at Michigan.

“Paige was a three sport athlete from a really small town in Ohio who played basketball and ran track in addition to high school volleyball,” Rosen said. “She wasn’t a big name coming in, but we’ve known about her for a while. Those three sport athletes are a bit of a dying breed, which kept her off the national radar.”

With the Wolverines surging in the AVCA Coaches Poll, Jones has put her talents on full display. Once Michigan volleyball fans familiarize themselves with her, they’ll see exactly why her serve is the key to Michigan’s success.