A lil’ dab of spirit works wonders for growing CatsSeptember 22, 2017
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
HUNTINGBURG — For the Jasper volleyball team, aces provide more than just gaining a point closer to clinching a set.
They allow Jasper coach Liz Milligan to celebrate with her players the best way they knew how — by dabbing.
“It started with just going down the bench and doing high-fives but then I thought ‘Oh, I’ll just dab,’” Milligan said with a laugh. “The kids love it. I mean I look silly but whatever it takes right?”
The dabs were in abundance in Jasper’s 25-18, 25-15, 25-14 win on Thursday night over Southridge as the Wildcats notched a total of 10 aces with sophomore Meredith Hilgefort adding five of them.
Jasper’s celebrations aren’t just limited to service aces, as some of the jubilation begins before first serve.
The Wildcats (15-10) start each match with a group chant that’s known as “Aviva,” a chant that’s been passed down from past Jasper teams as sort of a tradition. The players will yell out rhyming words in sort of a pattern (while yelling at the top of their lungs) as a warmup ritual to cast off any prematch jitters.
However, some of the exuberance is saved for special in-game moments.
After a block, you’ll hear Riley Merder and Reagan Egbert let out a “whoop whoop” with a flick of the wrist, which has been a tradition for as long as they can remember.
“Celebrations like that just get everyone involved,” Egbert said, “because once you do one good thing, it leads to another and another and it’s important to just keep that energy going.”
Milligan isn’t surprised to see the sophomores be a big part of the festivities. Egbert, Hilgefort, Merder and Kate Green have all either started or assumed significant roles on the varsity squad this season and along with the team’s three juniors (Taylor Wildman, Rylee Hedinger and Natalie Wigand) will be the building blocks for the Cats going forward.
“This group of sophomores has a lot of confidence,” Milligan said. “Especially for Reagan and Kate to step into the varsity level for the first time at the beginning of this season and pick up what we needed really helps the group dynamics of our team.”
One of the biggest differences in shifting from junior varsity to varsity?
“The pace of play is just so much faster,” Egbert said. “When I played JV, I remember thinking that the hitters on the other team hit shots hard, but after coming up to varsity all I can say is ‘nope.’”
In addition to the quicker pace and force of kills, Egbert’s transition was a little more difficult because she had to learn an entirely new position. But she wasn’t alone in learning the skills needed to be an efficient outside hitter.
“Going from a middle attacker to an outside attacker was a big change,” Egbert said. “Luckily, Libby Bell really helped me and gave me a lot of tips because I had to get adjusted to hitting from a different angle.”
Green, who has taken over the setter position, was able to learn under Alexa Stenftenagel last year but to move directly to varsity as the main liaison of communication among her teammates was still a lot to handle at first.
“Setting is a big role to kind of just jump into on varsity,” said Green, who finished with seven assists Thursday. “Having to be a leader right away was a big transition for me, but I feel like being able to play this position so early will make me more comfortable in the future.”
The underclassmen have received a plethora of support from their older counterparts in the journey as well — both with their play on the court (Avery Bell led with 10 kills Thursday, and Libby Bell and Maddie Edwards added nine each) as well as moments away from the action where they’ve provided as a helping hand.
Hilgefort, who has assumed the role as the team’s starting libero after she fully recovered from an ACL injury she suffered during basketball season last year, said the seniors have steered them through everything from tough practices to moments on the court when things didn’t go their way.
“The seniors at Jasper don’t just take over the team,” said Hilgefort, the team leader in digs with 10 in Thursday’s victory. “They’re so kind and they’ve helped the underclassmen mold right into the team, they’re not selfish at all. I think it’s nice to have role models like that to look up to; it’s going to be very tough losing them next season.”
For the Raiders (6-15), they were able to build up a quick 6-3 lead in the opening set but as Jasper started adding up points, errors hindered chances to peck away into the Wildcats lead several times throughout the match.
“We didn’t come ready to play tonight,” Southridge coach Sarah Rogers said. “Our passes weren’t what they needed to be so we weren’t able to run any offense and we also missed serves at crucial times.”
The Raiders had three players finish with five or more digs (Kenzie Young with eight, Boo Polley with seven and Katlyn Brewer with five) and received offensive support from Kenzie Lubbehusen’s four kills.
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