Jasper digs its way into trouble, then back out

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

FERDINAND — On nights like Monday, Jasper’s volleyball team reveals all facets of its coach’s personality.

First, there’s the unfiltered irritation.

“Sometimes my temper raises a little bit,” first-year coach Liz Milligan fessed up.

 Then, the Wildcats witness the rah-rah side of their coach.

“I’m trying to stay positive,” Milligan said.

Ahlbrand

A cumbersome 25-20, 25-23, 25-20 downing of rival Forest Park at Buechler Arena exhibited both sides of the Cats and their coach. Trailing through much of the final two sets, Jasper problem-solved its way out of trouble each time. And at the end, when Jasper led 24-20 before Tori Sermersheim plastered one final kill, the voice heard above all others was Milligan’s as she offered the sort of sideline support that she wants to become contagious.

“The bench players, they’re a big key in all this. That’s one thing I told them at the end of the game, ”˜(the players on the floor are) going to go like you go.’ I’m up there being the loudest cheerleader that I can, and the bench is responding to that, and everybody’s up and going and having a good time. I hope they’re responding to me like that in a good way.”

The Wildcats (13-12) also unveiled their range of hitting styles: the powerful and the precise.

Sermersheim brought the fury. When the Rangers led 16-15 in the final set, Sermersheim nudged the Cats into control with three successive monster hits. She finished with 18 kills, and Jasper picked up 12 more from Elisabeth Ahlbrand, a more discreet attacker who continually interrupted Ranger momentum.

With Forest Park (10-14) up 12-5 in the second set, Jasper’s road back started with two straight kills from Ahlbrand. The Rangers still led 18-16, but Ahlbrand knocked down another winner. In the third set, the Cats lagged 14-11. Kill, Ahlbrand. And more of the same on crucial points when Jasper led 20-19 and 22-20.

More than her penchant for clutch hits, Milligan marveled at Ahlbrand’s placement. The left-side hitter’s signature shot is one that few defenses see coming: the kill that she directs straight up the line instead of toward the middle of the floor.

“Last year I had it a little bit. I’m using it more now, because I guess I know that I can,” Ahlbrand said.

“Sometimes when my power isn’t on I need to find ways to get kills, so I just try to place it in spots that they’re not. Tonight my power wasn’t really on, so I just had to do something else.”

Jasper encountered a fortified Ranger defense that overcame a deficit of height with hustle, Forest Park coach Jamie Giesler said.

Giesler credited Lydia Lange (17 digs) and Chloe Dilger for their side-to-side scrapping, while Anna Hagedorn added 12 digs and Adria Giesler compiled 11 digs to accompany 23 assists. Giesler also liked the offensive confidence of Jordan Voges, who logged six kills. But as the Rangers contended with Jasper’s long-limbed defenders, including Emma Stout who bagged four blocks, terminating points was a chore for the Rangers. Lange, the team’s chief hitter, notched kills on three of the match’s first nine points but managed just four kills beyond that.

“They were a lot bigger than we were, and I think our defense was a lot stronger than it has been in the last couple weeks. We’ve been working on that, with our serve-receive and our passing, to be able to work offensively,” Jamie Giesler said.

“Even though the girls are a little dejected from a loss, (from) a coaching standpoint, I saw a massive improvement just in our team play that we had out there. I thought we worked really well out there. We just didn’t hit the things when we needed to, and it made a difference.”

The Cats boasted a dose of defense as well — and at opportune moments.

After Katelyn Hedinger’s block equipped Jasper with its first lead of the second set at 24-23, the Cats and Rangers waged the night’s longest point. Twice, Michala Flamion dug incoming rockets off Lange’s hand, and the Cats eventually swiped game point when a Ranger hit crashed into the net.

In the final set, a flurry of errors sent the Cats wandering into a 15-12 hole. From there, “we started to pick it up a little bit, do things I know we can do,” Milligan said.

“Earlier in the season with those kind of deficits, we weren’t coming back,” Milligan said. “So I guess we’ve got something we can hang our hat on. Once we get down, we know we can find a way to come back and win those close games. That’s a positive.”

The disposition was also bright for the Rangers, considering the night’s cause.

Both teams donned orange colors for “Spiking Down Leukemia” night, which raised nearly $1,000 for the Dubois County Leukemia Society. Players from both teams were introduced prior to the match with people they know who’ve been affected by cancer. The first Rangers introduced were sisters Adria and Madi Giesler, who held hands with their mom. Jamie Giesler, now in her fifth year back coaching after a remarkable recovery from cancer in which she was given a 2 percent chance of survival, repressed tears as the family walked onto the floor to applause.

“It’s about fighting. We’re here tonight honoring people who are fighting for much more relevant things than what a volleyball game is,” Jamie Giesler said. “Having both Madi and Adria with me tonight ... you think I might not have been there. They’ve been through hell as much as I’ve been through hell with all this, and for us to all three be standing there tonight, it was just a really great feeling.”

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.




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