Milton’s Grope enters record books | News, sports, jobs

REPORTER PHOTO/Robert Hayes Jackson-Milton, Senior, Paige Gru lays the ball during a home game against Niles on Monday. Grope recently became the first player in program history to score 1,000 career passes.

North Jackson – At the west end of the gymnasium at Jackson Melton High School are plenty of markers honoring career milestones, past championships, and other achievements of the Blue Jays in the past.

To the far left of the wall is a huge silver and blue metal banner dedicated to those who have recorded 1,000 kills during their lives dressed as Blue Jays.

Put another mark on the sports budget for next year, because for the first time in the program’s history, Jackson-Milton entered the 1,000 assists club as a player. Senior designer Paige Grope reached the milestone last week during a 3-0 sweep of Sebring, and she couldn’t be more excited to know her name will one day be featured.

“Me and (big) Mia Jericho, we’ve been playing since I was in seventh grade, so the chemistry was really there,” Touch said. “Just reaching out to the hitters, asking them what they want, how tight they are and how far, communication is really key in this sport for sure.

“Knowing that my sister (Mackenzie) played in front of me, she was a huge inspiration, and my mum (Gina) did when she was in school. I really just wanted to carry on the family tradition I guess.”

Grope was set for success early in her career, collecting 531 assists during her sophomore campaign as part of her 5-1 attacking style, giving her plenty of opportunities to collect numbers and earn the record for one season.

Since then, she’s had her eye on 1,000, but the path is never an easy one, especially with all the challenges that have been thrown at athletes over the past few years across the country.

This is in addition to being a triathlete with basketball and softball on her plate.

“It was very difficult, knowing that this season we have younger girls, we started with two or three sophomores and two freshmen who didn’t play college,” Groppi said, after the team set a record 6-4 victory over Niles on Monday. “Only three of us played league last year, so I really knew I was going to have some youngsters, I was a little nervous to see if I would get there. But I knew that with my team and the hitters I would get it.”

Last season coach Stephen Mohr changed the 6-2, reducing her production a bit, but the team tests her to be one of the best on and off the field.

“She’s a great mentor for our young kids. We call her the heart of the team. She kinda sets the tempo, and motivates the other players,” Mohr said. “It gives youngsters a chance to look at what they can achieve as a determinant.

“We challenge her in practice, and even in the summer we challenge her a lot and frustrate her that way when it’s time for a match it’s a little easier, it slows down the game for her.”

Grob credits all the other coaches who have paved the way for her so far in her career. Having to juggle the three athletic seasons isn’t an easy task, but she’s focusing more on academics, not deciding what her plans are for college just yet.

“It definitely teaches you a group, being with the girls in particular, you get a lot closer as a team, not just volleyball, but all these sports, and especially growing together really helps,” Grob commented that volleyball is her favorite sport. “It’s a lot like a team sport I guess. Knowing I have everyone out there, most of my friends play volleyball more than any other sport.

“It gets hard, especially on your body, and sometimes it’s tiring, but really knowing my goals and setting them at the start of the season really keeps me going academically and athletically.”

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