The third time was very much not the charm for Emma Jones. The fourth, she hopes, will be.

A 6-foot middle blocker for the Center Grove volleyball team, Jones has yet to go through a full high school season without some sort of injury getting in the way.

Needless to say, she was highly motivated coming into her senior year — especially since the most recent injury was probably the worst.

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Jones was in the midst of an All-County campaign as a junior, racking up 205 kills and 97 blocks in 87 sets, before a torn anterior cruciate ligament cut her year short. She missed the final four matches of the regular season and all of the tournament, watching as the Trojans won a sectional title but lost to Columbus East in a Class 4A regional.

“I’ve been super motivated ever since I got hurt,” Jones said. “This summer, I kicked it into high gear, and I’ve been doing extra stuff on and off the court just to improve my speed and agility, and it’s definitely exciting to come back.

“I want to finish my year off strong. I’ve been hurt every single year, so hopefully this will be the first year I make it through.”

So far, Jones has shown no lingering afte-reffects from the knee injury. She put down 12 kills and added 10 blocks in a big early-season win over Avon, and had 10 kills each against Zionsville and Cathedral.

Heading into tonight’s match with conference rival Carmel, Jones leads the Trojans in solo blocks with 15 and ranks second on the team in kills with 65, trailing only classmate Ellen LeMasters.

The University of Indianapolis commit says she also hit a milestone earlier this month when she was able to touch 10 feet.

“Emma worked really hard this summer,” Center Grove coach Maggie Harbison said. “I think she’s in better shape than she’s ever been in.

“She’s just tough; she’s ready to finish on a good note.”

Center Grove has certainly started on a good note. The team enters the week 6-1 and ranked second in the IndianaPrepVolleyball.com Z-Rating, which doubles as the official state ranking.

Early season accolades are great, but Jones has her sights set on accomplishments for her team in the postseason — a time that should mean even more to her after missing out on it last year.

“She suffered for three years to have a great senior year,” Harbison said, “and I think it’ll all pay off.”

Early returns are in...

IndianaPrepVolleyball.com released its initial Z-Rating list — which also serves as the official state ranking beginning this season — last week. A look at where Johnson County’s teams stood going into this week:

Team;Rank

Center Grove;2 (2nd in Class 4A)

Franklin;23 (13th in 4A)

Greenwood Christian;71 (7th in A)

Indian Creek;134 (43rd in 3A)

Greenwood;184 (61st in 4A)

Edinburgh;211 (33rd in A)

Whiteland;246 (77th in 4A)

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.