Jeeps up for task of sudden defensive alteration

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

HUNTINGBURG — Upon hearing the surprise at Tuesday’s practice, Northeast Dubois volleyball players thought they were being Punk’d.

Jeep coach Stephanie Schepers was the one to deliver the bombshell. That defense they’d been playing for the last two-plus months? Scrap it, we’re trying something new just two weeks out from sectional play.

“Everyone was kind of like, ”˜Uh, we don’t know what to do, and confused,” Jeep libero Jenna Stemle said. “But you just have to work with it.”

Stemle


The shift remains a work in progress. But from the sudden installation Tuesday to a day of polishing Wednesday to finishing a 25-20, 25-18, 25-19 reign over Southridge on Thursday in Huntingburg, the adjusting Jeeps have discovered it’s not too late in the season to learn a new trick.

Schepers made the overhaul with one team — and one player — in mind.

The hurdle for Class 1A No. 8 Northeast Dubois (18-6) in the upcoming sectional is likely to be fifth-ranked Tecumseh, which boasts Brenna Floyd, an intimidator of a middle hitter. The Braves swept the Jeeps 25-21, 25-15, 25-17 in the third match of the season, so Schepers knows if the Jeeps have a stab at defending last year’s sectional crown, they have to give Floyd and the Braves a fresh look the second time around.

They’re doing so with a “middle up” defense, which moves one of the back-row players closer to the net to minimize the amount of open space for a middle hitter to aim for.

“We’re taking away a lot of options that (Floyd’s) used to having,” Schepers said. “We know with only a couple matches left, now’s the time to try something new.”

Thursday, the bulk of Southridge’s attacking came via the outside as Haley Langebrake knocked down eight kills while Kayla Voegerl and Maddie Neu added four apiece. Still, the Jeeps continued to iron out the flaws in their defensive alignment — which was jammed with chaos the first day the Jeeps tried it.

“It looked a lot better tonight than it did Tuesday,” said Stemle, who registered 15 digs while Emily Lueken added a team-high 17 digs. “We were all like, ”˜That was yours’ and then (Coach) would explain to us that it was really ours. It was kind of all over the place. It was just kind of bumping into each other, and then we were kind of all scattered all over the place.”

Executing a comfortable transition is a matter of time and a matter of trusting yourself, Schepers said. Chloe Johnson, who notched 11 digs Thursday, is the Jeep who the defensive swap affects more than anyone else.

“She’s used to playing on the back line, to where now she’s up in the middle of everything,” Schepers said. “She questions a lot of the things she does, and I tell her, ”˜It’s fine, you’re fine. Just go with your judgment.’”

The timing of the change was ideal, because the Jeeps were able to see how their new defense looks from the other side.

Southridge utilizes the same defensive alignment, so Schepers said her offensive instigators were able to recognize which regions of the floor would be open. Kendra Jacob crushed 14 kills, Talia Terwiske delivered 21 assists and the Jeeps also sprayed nine aces, including three apiece from Jacob and Emily Lueken.

Maddie Lubbehusen’s 30 digs helped the Raiders (2-20) stay in each set, and for Southridge, the end-of-season thrust is more elemental as coach Sarah Rogers wants her three starting sophomores — Grace Kappner (nine assists), Sydney Altmeyer and Voegerl — to simply keep getting comfortable.

“We’re just trying to still figure it all out,” Rogers said. “We’re not changing anything right now, but just molding the younger ones, the three starting sophomores we have, trying to get them more in their positions, practicing, doing what they’re supposed to be doing in a game, to help benefit us for next year.”

Most of Southridge’s overhauls came early in the year, as they started running a 6-2 offense with a two-setter mix and made other moves to gain more blocking in the front row. Those moves trimmed back the playing time of Gabby Ingram, and left Langebrake as the only Raider senior who plays hefty minutes.

Ingram
Wehr


But Thursday’s senior night was a chance for Southridge’s other two seniors to have their moments, and Rogers saluted the way Ingram and Megan Wehr have embraced their roles.

“Their attitudes have been great,” Rogers said. “Megan Wehr is always coming into practice with something funny, she’s kind of that little jokester of the group that’s always being silly. Tonight she did a great job of going in and playing and doing what we asked her to do.”

Still, the Jeeps comfortably pulled away in a three-set shutout, and in doing so, finished off a sweep of county rivals Southridge, Forest Park and Jasper — the first time since 2005 they pulled off the trick.

“That felt pretty nice, actually. That was awesome,” Stemle said. “It’s just nice being the smallest school in the county and then to beat all the big schools, it feels good.”

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.




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