Sideline tips give Jeeps right touch

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Northeast Dubois volleyball players Talia Terwiske, left, Kennedy Neukam, Kendra Jacob, Chloe Johnson, Emily Lueken and Jenna Stemle gathered for a celebratory cheer after defeating Jasper on Thursday night in Dubois. The Jeeps won 25-21, 25-23, 23-25, 25-19 for their first victory over the Wildcats in eight years. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

DUBOIS — Pam Lueken can lay claim to all sorts of labels. Assistant coach. Mother. Reconnaissance agent and informant.

The last of those descriptors is helping make the Northeast Dubois volleyball team awfully hard to beat these days.

If there’s an open region on the opponent’s side of the net or a weakness to exploit, Lueken’s going to sniff it out and share her findings. Thursday night in Dubois, with the help of their assistant coach, the Jeeps continually found all the holes where Jasper wasn’t. Blending big swings with tricky tips and off-speed hits, Northeast Dubois kept the Wildcats guessing in a 25-21, 25-23, 23-25, 25-19 victory that marked the Jeeps’ first triumph over their county rivals since 2005.

Offstage from the Jeeps’ eighth straight victory was Lueken, the longtime assistant who spreads her strategy to everyone, from setter Talia Terwiske to chief hitter Kendra Jacob.

“That’s kind of the one thing Pam does for me. She’s the go-to person as far as what’s open on the court. She’s a huge, key asset on that,” said Jeep coach Stephanie Schepers, whose team has won eight straight matches after a 4-5 start to the season.

“It’s inevitable, after Kendra does anything, she’s going to be looking at one of us. She definitely really relies on Pam; and Talia, Pam can tell her where to tip if a set’s tight. She’s definitely my eyes as to the other side of the court and what’s open.”

The Wildcats expected as much.

Jasper coach Liz Milligan was a teammate of Lueken’s at Jasper, graduating a year ahead of her in 1982. Milligan knows Lueken’s style, which is equal parts strategy and energy as the Jeep assistant is constantly clapping and encouraging.

“They were creative on their shots. I knew how Dubois plays, I know my friend Pam and their head coach get them going,” Milligan said.

“I’ve been telling the team all week, they play hard. Dubois plays hard. They’re scrappy, they don’t let anything drop.”

The numbers underscored that, as Emily Lueken, Pam’s daughter, registered 24 digs while Jenna Stemle (23 digs), Chloe Johnson (20) and Jacob (16) gave Northeast Dubois (12-5) a hearty dose of defense to accent the crafty offense.

Jacob bagged 18 kills, including one scorcher where a Wildcat defender stuck out a leg in a desperate attempt to stop it but still couldn’t touch it before it whizzed past. Four points later, Jacob offered a changeup, dumping a soft shot that found a vacant spot for a 22-17 Jeep edge in the final set. Three points later, Emily Lueken flicked a soft offering that barely cleared the net, setting up a 24-18 margin before Jasper (5-7) sailed a serve long to sew up a victory that left the Jeeps celebrating in a screaming mob.

Earlier, the Jeeps tucked away the clinching point in the opening set when Haley Brinkman tapped a shot to the right of a fortress of two blockers. And with the score level at 23 in the second set, Jacob smoked a kill before Lueken took a wayward set and shoved an off-balance floater through two Wildcats.

“You’ve got to keep them on their toes. You hit it hard, they’re going to know you’re going to keep coming hard,” Jacob said. “You’ve got to mix it up, or they’re going to be on their toes ready for what you gave them last time.”

Practically every Jeep showed a panache for being unpredictable.

Midway through the second set, Terwiske was stationed in the middle of the court and feathered a ball behind her head, landing the shot on the line for a winner. On the next point, Stemle had to send the ball across the net on the third and final touch of the Jeeps’ rally. The libero surprised everyone by jumping for a picture-perfect kill from the back row that barely breached the net and plopped in the middle of the floor on Jasper’s side.

“She does that randomly,” Emily Lueken said of Stemle. “She comes out of nowhere, and ”˜Bam.’”

That was part of the Jeeps’ closing surge as they rallied from 16-11 and 20-15 down in the second set. With Lueken chipping in eight kills and Johnson adding seven kills, mostly of the off-speed type, Northeast Dubois found enough variety to keep the Wildcats out of sync and out of sorts.

“It’s been our Achilles’ heel all season, and I’ve said it over and over and over again: That’s been our ball control. The serve-receive,” Milligan said. “We have a very good offense, but if we can’t run the ball off of a serve, then a lot of them were not getting up to our setter and then it’s just hard to run an offense when you’re running all over.”

Wildcat senior Tori Sermersheim still got enough opportunities to wallop 21 kills, but she was limited to seven putaways as the Jeeps snatched the first two sets. The Cats extended the night thanks in part to Rachel Bounds, the reserve whose back-to-back kill and block helped Jasper rise from a 22-all tie in the third set.

But just as the Jeeps can discover the right place to put the ball from a glance toward their assistant, the unsaid ambitions and bonds allowed Northeast Dubois to finish with a flourish.

“Just that drive to beat Jasper, a good team like that, was what helped us push through,” Emily Lueken said of the fourth-set recovery. “I’m so proud of my team. We’ve wanted this since we started our season.”

“We went into this game — we went into this day — thinking that we wanted to beat Jasper,” Jacob added. “All through school, we walked through school, we see each other, it’s just ... you can feel it. We work well as a team and we all get along, and that really helps.”

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.




More on DuboisCountyHerald.com