Junior Nikki Jones is developing nicely this season as a setter for Marist.
Still, the right-side hitter in her comes out every now and again.
It happened twice in a row during Tuesday’s match against Joliet Catholic. Both times the ball went to the floor with authority.
“It’s always in the back of my mind,” Jones said, smiling. “It’s always an option for me, and I use it when I can.”
Jones’ versatility proved helpful for the RedHawks in a hard-fought 25-21, 25-22 East Suburban Catholic Conference victory.
Clemson recruit Camryn Hannah led the way with 12 kills for Marist (16-2, 3-1). Maddie Arundel added seven kills, while Jones had 12 assists and Jillian Elsouso contributed 15 digs.
Ryan Hinshaw had seven assists and four digs for Joliet Catholic (11-7, 1-3). Riley Hungate and Kristen Lueszler delivered three kills apiece.
The 5-foot-9 Jones converted from right-side hitter to setter after her freshman season at Marist.
“Based on my height, I’m obviously not as tall as the hitters on our team,” Jones said. “It actually started in club when my coach told me if didn’t switch to setter I wouldn’t make the top team.
“Ever since then, I’ve been a setter. I like it a lot better. At first it was a little iffy for me because I liked scoring and being the one who got the points. Now, I put it into different perspective that I touch every ball on every point.”
The switch came at a good time for Marist coach Jordan Vidovic, who’s in rebuilding mode at the position after back-to-back standout setters with Molly Murrihy and Katie Mather.
“I think it was something that suited her, and for us it was a reasonable fit,” Vidovic said. “It has brought a different dimension to our team this season because she has some of those athletic capabilities.
“She is still working really hard on the technical side of it because she doesn’t have the four or five years of individual training. But you can see the little things day by day and game by game get a little bit cleaner.”
Jones' ability to do more than tip on offense makes the hitting duo of Hannah and Arundel even more dangerous.
“It makes the hitters on the other side of the net second-guess us a lot,” Hannah said. “She’s a really good asset for us.”
Joliet Catholic, still awaiting the return from injuries of outside hitters Emily Wilson and Jillian Gray, gave the RedHawks a battle.
“We went out there and got in the 20s both games,” Angels coach Christine Scheibe said. “We made some good plays, but I don’t think we were able to go after it aggressively on offense at times.
“When you’ve got Camryn Hannah on the other side of net and she’s going aggressive, it’s hard to match that. You can only do so much against an athlete like that.”