Bingo: Rangers make mark with help all aroundSeptember 12, 2017
By BRENDAN PERKINS
HUNTINGBURG — You know Forest Park volleyball is rolling when Mady Day and Anna Becher start doing their best Taylor Bayer impressions.
Day and Becher will never be mistaken for frontline intimidators like Bayer, their Ranger teammate who terminated 16 kills in Monday’s 28-26, 24-26, 25-20, 25-18 jaunt past Southridge. Yet during those stretches Monday where the Rangers finally gained a little wiggle room, Day and Becher delivered that rare commodity that volleyball teams consider a golden moment: a kill out of the back row from their defensive specialists.
Becher took her turn early in the fourth set, landing a clean spike to nudge the Rangers up 5-1. Earlier it was Day who pulled off a couple surprise strikes, both coming within a spree of 12 consecutive Ranger points that vaulted them from an 11-9 debt to a 21-11 cushion in the third set.
Perhaps even better than the unexpected hitting punch from the diminutive defenders is the timeline of their facial reactions that follow.
“Surprise,” Day described, “to being overjoyed.”
Monday’s match as a whole followed a similar arc for the Rangers, who finally wrested control in the latter half after each side dazed the other early — Forest Park snagged the first set after trailing 23-17, and Southridge blotted out a 22-17 deficit to grab Set 2.
Whether it was Day and Becher gaining their moments of glory or Sara Helming, Faith Zazzetti and Courtney Borman (a recent call-up from the JV team) sprinkling in some kills or Macie Zink (11 kills) and Bayer taking their rips, Forest Park coach Alexa Rasche figures she’s got a group that's becoming more apt to swing away.
“I think we have a full line of hitters, and once they get that confidence that, yes, they can swing and yes they can put it down, I think they’re going to come a long way,” Rasche said.
Day figures the process advanced even further thanks to a little fun the Rangers (4-11, 1-3 Pocket Athletic Conference) incorporated into their last practice Friday afternoon. The coaching staff made a giant bingo board that players had to fill by pulling off certain shots, and “we got to try a whole bunch of kills that we might not normally think about doing, and really come together with that energy that came through today,” Day said.
Some of the bingo spots were higher degrees of difficulty to earn, such as passing the ball over to the other side and getting it to drop (which Southridge’s Luxey Neukam achieved Monday by hustling for a dig that plopped on the sideline for a winner). After achieving a task in one of the bingo boxes, the Rangers marked the spot with an old pair of spandex for a distinctive volleyball twist.
“Hey, it works,” Day said with a laugh.
The Rangers sometimes weren’t afforded any shortcuts in their five-in-a-row bingo, as “she made us earn the free space a couple times too,” Becher said. The Rangers found the quirky diversion contained some real-life practicality in thinking a couple steps ahead.
“We had to have a plan what we were going to do to fill each spot. That was good practice for us, and today during the timeouts (Rasche) would say, ‘Pretend like it’s bingo and pick something to run,’" Becher said. "That really helped us, I think. It was a lot of fun.”
Southridge (3-12, 0-3) is similarly trying to incorporate more weapons into the hitting equation with Neukam, who’s starting to gain more swings operating alongside Kenzie Young (16 kills, 18 digs, five aces) and Kenzie Lubbehusen (eight kills, four blocks).
Seeking a spark, coach Sarah Rogers shifted Neukam last week to hitting on the left side as she figured the Raiders could profit from Neukam’s fearless swings and ability to rise and connect even when their offense isn’t perfectly in system.
“She can get some of those balls that you wouldn’t think normally she would,” Rogers said. “They’re a little awkward sometimes, but she keeps them in play.”
Same goes for Raider libero Boo Polley, who accumulated 22 digs Monday while Mady Neukam and Savanah Goeppner merged for 27 assists and a dozen digs. Rogers counted 15 missed serves that stalled momentum and bit the Raiders in their ninth straight defeat. Yet in those tough moments, Rogers wants to see her team self-correct.
“They did a good job of working out some things. I don’t call timeouts very often, but they need to figure it out, and I’ve said that to them for a while now: There’s six of you out there, you need to figure it out, you need to pick each other up, you can do it,” Rogers said. “That’s part of being mentally tough, is having to work yourself out of it.”
The Rangers figure they made a stride on the same front Monday — and with an array of contributors plus a mighty dose of defense as Rasche marveled at the Rangers’ total of 73 digs that included 14 from Becher, 13 by Bayer and a dozen from Kylie Giesler with Day, Zink and Katelyn Tretter near that mark as well.
“In past games we’ve seen that maybe just the back row was on or just the front row was on, but tonight we really came together as a team and we that pass up, we got that set and then we got that kill, and we kept doing that and kept building those points up,” Day said.
Added Becher: “I think we really just took away how important it is to have good attitude and how much better we play whenever we have a good attitude, because tonight we just had so much energy and we were all in such good moods and spirits and helping each other and lifting each other, and that is everything, I think.”
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