Tighter ties send Ranger stock rising

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Forest Park dismissed Pike Central in a hurry Tuesday at Buecher Arena as Adria Giesler, left, Lydia Lange and Anna Hagedorn celebrated winning a point in the Rangers’ 25-15, 25-19, 25-17 victory. Giesler offered 19 assists while Lange paced the team with 10 kills and 17 digs as the Rangers secured their second three-set sweep of the season. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

FERDINAND — Those who study together, stick together on the court.

Maybe the adage hasn’t swept the world just yet. But at Forest Park, it goes a long way in explaining how this year is different.

When the team congregated for prematch dinners last year, Adria Giesler didn’t crack her textbooks at the get-togethers. She wanted to get homework accomplished, but just got the uneasy drift that it wasn’t the time or the place to study. These days, it’d be kosher to do homework or juggle knives or deliver stand-up comedy at team dinners. Anything goes. Everyone feels accepted. And that’s how things are starting to bud on the court for the Rangers, too.

Schaefer

Forest Park conceded that Tuesday’s 25-15, 25-19, 25-17 sweep of Pike Central may not have been its most pristine exhibit of volleyball. But they didn’t stew over it. What really matters, they say, is the revolution in attitude this season that’s brightened the climate around Buechler Arena — and producing more wins, to boot.

“I can honestly say that this team is the best group of girls that’s really gotten along the best,” Giesler said. “A team that gets along is going to play better than a team that does not get along. I’m not saying we didn’t get along in the past, it’s just that there was always some type of drama going on. But this year, honestly, we’re all just ourselves with each other, and that helps a lot.

“We all know what went on in years past, and we just wanted to change that. And it’s really making a difference right now. We can all tell.”

They’re not just reality-blind declarations, either.

For the last seven years, a coach from the University of Louisville has come to Ferdinand to run a camp with the Rangers. At the end of this year’s session, she told Ranger head coach Jamie Giesler it was the hardest-working group and most productive camp session she can remember at Forest Park.

The Rangers (5-5, 2-1 Pocket Athletic Conference) are beginning to craft the teamwork to match.

With Forest Park up 14-9 in the first set, Ranger libero Taylor Prechtel decided to play a serve that looked to be careening long. The ball skipped off her arms and out of reach. Almost before Prechtel could react, she was surrounded by four teammates who offered a round of conciliatory pats.

Last year, that sort of forgiveness wasn’t as common.

“It wasn’t happening frequently,” said Adria Giesler, who tucked away 19 assists, nine digs, 13 service points and two aces Tuesday. “We’d usually just get mad at somebody and tell them, ”˜Let’s get it (together).’ Mistakes are going to happen. We just have understood that now.”

Even as the Rangers are replacing four starters from last season, they’ve needed little time to locate their protagonists. That’s because everyone qualifies as a leader.

Jamie Giesler said everyone naturally follows Lydia Lange, the energetic junior who led with 17 digs and 10 kills Tuesday and ended the second set with rocketing back-to-back spikes at the net. Like Lange, Anna Hagedorn leads via her voice, the Ranger coach said. The team’s three seniors — Adria Giesler, Devin Schaefer and Chloe Dilger — are more apt to lead through their actions.

Either way works.

“At first it’s always like, ”˜Who’s going to take us? Who’s going to lead us?’” Jamie Giesler said. “But I think they’re realizing that they all can lead each other, and I think that’s important.”

Added Schaefer: “I don’t know if we’re really surprised by the wins, but I think that we’re just more confident in ourselves this year and we’re just ready to play each game. That’s the major difference.”

The notion that everyone can donate something of value is also enumerated by Emma Auerbach-Lind, a Danish exchange student who’d never played volleyball before arriving in America. She’s still learning how to serve the ball, but at breaks in action during practice, Auerbach-Lind stations herself against a wall and taps the ball back and forth to herself. She played exactly one point Tuesday at the end of Set 1, and that moment elicited the loudest cheer of the night from the Ranger sideline as Adria Giesler pointed Auberbach-Lind to which part of the court to cover as the Rangers received serve.

The full scope of the Rangers’ refreshed outlook was understood last week, when they marched back from two sets down to take the next two against three-time defending sectional champ Evansville Mater Dei, which was then ranked eighth in Class 2A. The full rally didn’t materialize in the fifth and decisive set. Even if it had, it wouldn’t have marked a stopping point.

“Don’t get comfortable with being right here,” Jamie Giesler said, holding her hand up to shoulder level. “You’ve always got to try to attain and achieve more every single time. Like I (told them about the) Mater Dei (match), don’t get comfortable with that. It’s good, but it’s not good enough. You’ve got to make yourself better every single time.”

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.




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