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MX News Update 2024

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George Jenkins’ unlikely action culminates in regional action

It was an invigorating experience for George Jenkins head coach Jena Ousley to advance to the Class 1A regional quarterfinals, especially after the Eagles lost at home to Mulberry in the Class 1A and District 12 semifinals last week.

However, George Jenkins could afford a district loss because the program was ranked fourth in the region and went 18-1 in the regular season – George Jenkins had the power of a schedule nod – including two wins against Mulberry. As such, Mulberry’s loss to the Tampa Bay Heat in the district championship game ended the season while giving the Eagles a chance to fight another day in the regionals.

Ousley felt a sense of achievement at having come this far, despite a 3-0 loss to Windermere. After all, it was the first time in school history that the program had gotten this far, as the program has only been in existence for two years. Conversely, Windermere has been playing for seven years.

“My guys stuck with that team and made some phenomenal plays both defensively and offensively, which showed me that we will continue to compete deeper and deeper into the regional and state tournament as our program develops,” Ousley said. “My team came out fighting and showed Windermere it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.

In regional action, the Eagles started off strong blocking and precise passing in the service reception. Everyone from George Jenkins was firing on all cylinders as the passers played well.

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“We had some great plays that brought tears to my eyes as we see how far our guys have come in two short years,” Ousley said. “I wouldn’t choose any other team to coach than these guys. They are truly a pleasure to coach and I am honored to be their coach.

But Windermere, the No. 33 program in the state, was filled with seasoned athletes who consistently kept the ball in play. Their defense was very sloppy and they dug a lot of balls. George Jenkins was unable to make a move and therefore conceded a number of critical points.

The season is now over, but that doesn’t mean the future isn’t bright despite some key losses. The Eagles lose senior setter Max Radman, who flawlessly led the Eagle offense. Senior outside hitter Noel Rivera will also move on, while also losing senior middle blocker Reid Talbot, who was new to the sport but is one of the more coachable student-athletes.

Still, George Jenkins, the No. 51 prospect in Florida in 2024, will return Libero William Snell, who is arguably the best Libero in Polk County. The stable of middle blockers will return, including Jacob Aca, who is known for hitting from any position on the court. Captain Freddie Heid will return to continue his effective leadership and attacking prowess, while right hitter RJ Benion will return to continue his attacking threat.