Sep. 23—BEAVER TOWNSHIP — Unlike many high school volleyball players on the verge of a milestone, Jefferson High School's Helaina Edgar enjoyed an advantage.
Before Monday's contest against Madison, the junior knew she was sitting on 999 assists in her season-and-a-half as Falcon regular.
Early on, Edgar knew she had reached 1,000, even if the fans weren't quite sure. The achievement was announced during the next time out.
"They congratulated me over the loudspeaker," Edgar said Thursday after Jefferson won a three-set match against South Range. The scores were 25-19, 25-14 and 25-22.
Assists are the unsung hero statistic of volleyball. Spikes, kills, digs, points and aces often lead the post-match recaps.
But assists are valuable.
"She runs our offense, she does a great job putting us in position where we can ultimately get kills," Jefferson head coach Don Palm said. "She's one of our more athletic players so we ask her to do more on the court for us.
"She's been our starting setter the past two years. She played a little bit as a freshman."
Despite the sweep, Palm credited the Raiders (7-7, 5-5 Northeast 8) for making plays.
"They didn't make a whole lot of mistakes," Palm said. "They played tough defense, they were digging the ball pretty well that third set.
"We're kinda of shooting ourselves in the foot with too many unforced errors," he said of the Falcons falling behind 12-7 in the third game. "Sometimes you have to find a way to dig yourself out of that hole and find a way to win."
Edgar scored five points down the stretch as the Falcons improved to 12-4, 8-2 Northeast 8 Conference.
That keeps them tied with Girard for second in the conference.
Both trail Lakeview, which entered Thursday's play with a 9-0 league record.
The Falcons split with Girard and have a rematch against Lakeview.
"I'm very proud that we've fought through a lot of stuff," Edgar said. "We beat Girard in four so that was a big game for us."
She said the Falcons lost three starters (two middles and one outside) to graduation.
"I really got a lot of my assists last year," Edgar said.
Volleyball is Edgar's lone varsity sport. A gymnast since she was 4, Edgar spends the offseason playing club volleyball for a team based in Mentor.
"It's about 50 minutes to there and back, practice is four days a week," she said.
The difference this winter will be having her driver's license. Her mom, Michelle, mostly was her chauffeur last offseason.
"Sometimes Dad, but this year I'll probably drive myself," she said. "It was fun because Mom and I bonded a lot."
She estimated she made between 20 to 30 assists against the Raiders.
"That's my typical night," Edgar said.
Normally Edgar finds out her numbers the next day, but because she had 48 on Sept. 15 in the victory against Girard, Palm shared that with her right after the match.
"That was a big [total] for me and my team," she said.
Edgar credits gymnastics for helping her build strength.
"Most of my athletic ability and strength comes from gymnastics," she said.
Edgar first played volleyball in the seventh grade.
"I started later than most," she said. "I love [volleyball playing] with all your friends — and just everything and anything on the court. It's a long season, but I love it."
Edgar hopes to continue playing volleyball in college and will attend college showcases this winter.
She plans to major in the medical field.
"Nursing, physical therapy, something along those lines," she said. "Nursing, my great-grandma was in her 90s and she needed 24/7 care. I was always at her house helping.
"She [told me] 'You're going to be a great nurse when you grow up.' So when she passed away, it made me want to be a nurse even more."
Edgar said knee issues gave her experience with physical therapy when she was younger.
"I was always in physical therapy when I was younger, trying to get better," she said. "And I realized it would be a fun place to work."
Science and math are her favorite subjects.
Home-schooled from third to sixth grade, Edgar didn't hesitate to name her most influential teacher.
"My Mom," she said.