BRADEN RIVER — Madison Jaco has developed a voice of her own.
No longer under the careful watch of her two older sisters, Kaleigh and Brittany, the Braden River High senior middle hitter is adjusting to her new role as the vocal leader of the Lady Pirates volleyball team.
Jaco learned the importance of communication three years ago playing alongside Brittany Jaco. The most down-to-earth of the three sisters, it took Jaco awhile to take on the leadership role that both of her sisters donned during their time at Braden River.
But, now, in the middle of her senior season, Jaco is adjusting to her newfound role.
“Communication is a big thing that I’ve been working on,” Jaco says. “Being a co-captain, I want to instill confidence in my teammates and help them achieve their goals, but I’m also (learning) to let them help me and relying on them.”
After going undefeated in the Cardinal Mooney Classic, the Lady Pirates opened the season with three consecutive losses to some of the area’s top competitors in Venice, Riverview and Manatee.
But, for Jaco, the season truly began Sept. 10, when the Lady Pirates played host to rival Lakewood Ranch in their first of four district matches.
Jaco was a freshman the last time Braden River won a district title. The Lady Pirates reached the regional finals that same year.
“We all want to win districts, and I think this year we have a pretty strong team,” Jaco says. “For me, personally, I don’t really expect anything. I know how we are playing, and if we keep our confidence up then, hopefully, we can win regionals and go to states, which would be a first-time thing.”
When Braden River won its last district title in 2010, Jaco had only been playing volleyball for about a year. At the time, Jaco’s sisters both were into the sport, and the three would play together for hours in their backyard.
Jaco began playing club volleyball for the Sarasota Volleyball Academy in middle school, and she’s been playing competitively ever since.
After making the Lady Pirates varsity squad as a sophomore, Jaco spent the next year playing alongside Brittany Jaco.
The following year, Jaco returned to the court alone — hoping to make an impact on the court the same way her sisters had before her.
“It’s different,” Jaco says. “I don’t have that sibling rivalry on the court anymore. I don’t miss it at all.”
That same year, Jaco joined Coastline Volleyball Club for which she plays for 17 Rox Black.
Over the summer, Jaco hit the ball so hard that it bounced off her opponent’s neck and shoulders. It’s the one kill that continues to stick with Jaco.
“I love getting a kill and the excitement that comes after it,” Jaco says. “It’s just exciting, and the whole team gets excited.”
Following this season, Jaco will make a decision as to whether she plans to continue playing volleyball or focus her attention solely on basketball, in which she also excels.
Jaco is hoping to land an in-state scholarship, but when it comes to which sport she wants to play — well, that part is still up in the air.
“That’ll probably be the biggest decision of my life,” Jaco says. “Whatever sport I’m in, I like that sport.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].