Cats go from timid to powerful in win over Jeeps

Photos by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Northeast Dubois' Molly Lueken attempts to block as Jasper's Natalie Wigand hits the ball during Thursday's volleyball match in Jasper. Jasper defeated Northeast Dubois 3-0 (25-9, 25-14, 25-13) as the Wildcats front line of outside attackers and middle attackers showed their strengths in the victory. For more photos from the match, click here.


JASPER — At the beginning of the season, Jasper junior Reagan Egbert admits how she could be timid at times when going up for kills.

She’d hold back and not unleash the full power she had built up in her arsenal. But when head coach Liz Milligan told her to become more confident in her play, the results have spoken for themselves.

“At the beginning of the season I was swinging timid but they told me to just swing and not be scared,” said Egbert who finished with 12 kills in the 3-0 (25-9, 25-14, 25-13) victory over county rival Northeast Dubois on Thursday night in Jasper.

Milligan added: “She doesn’t always have the confidence and sometimes she lets up but tonight she just let it go and look what happened? Good things happen when she uses her power.”

Jasper’s offensive attack was powered by the front line of outside and middle attackers who were able to use both their height and skills to throw down some monster kills and blocks to thwart off any potential Northeast Dubois attack.

Egbert (5-foot-9), Meredith Hilgefort (5-foot-9), Taylor Wildman (5-foot-9) and Riley Merder (5-foot-11) have been able to perform efficiently when the offense is in rhythm as it was on Thursday evening.

“I think we’ve finally found the lineup where we all finally have confidence in each other and we’re all serving and receiving tough,” said Hilgefort who finished with a team-high 14 kills. “We’re very confident in ourselves and our team. We’ve played timid at times before but now we’re all just playing like we have nothing to lose.”

Jasper (14-4) was able to get out to a very fast start in the first set as they jumped out to a 6-0 lead right away with a few early kills from Merder. Northeast Dubois (11-3) wouldn’t get much closer throughout the rest of the opening set as Jasper led by as many points as 14 en route to a 25-9 opening set win that was capped off by a high-flying kill from Egbert.

When she’s soaring through the air for one of her kills, you may wonder what’s going through her mind.

“I just try to listen to my blockers around me,” Egbert said. “Meredith (Hilgefort) is really good at talking to me and telling me where the back row is and where my best option to hit is.”

The second set was more of the same as Jasper got off to another quick start on their way to a 25-14 victory but the third set started off a lot closer than the first two games.

Jasper and Northeast Dubois split the first three points back and forth before Jasper won consecutive points after two straight kills from Egbert. The Wildcats then started to go on a run late in the set including a run of the three straight points capped off by a kill by sophomore Allison Mair that forced Northeast Dubois head coach Misty Smith to call a timeout as the Cats led 17-10.

After the timeout, Northeast Dubois scored just three more points as the Wildcats closed things out for a 25-13 final set victory.

Stat leaders for the Wildcats were Natalie Wigand (43 assists), Meredith Hilgefort (14 kills, 17 digs), Reagan Egbert (12 kills, two aces), Riley Merder (10 kills), Taylor Wildman (five kills), Allison Mair (four kills) and Rylee Hedinger (18 digs).

Milligan was happy with the team’s effort on their assists and passing game as a whole and felt like it was one of their best performances of the season.

Jasper's Meredith Hilgefort serves during Thursday's volleyball match in Jasper. Hilgefort had an all-around strong performance for the Wildcats in the victory as she finished with 14 kills and 17 digs. For more photos from the match, click here.

“Tonight was one of our best nights as far as passing and ball control goes,” Milligan said. “When we can get the ball to our setter and run our system then we’re a hard team to beat because we have a very good front line. We had a few hiccups at the beginning of the season but we’ve made some key lineup changes and they’ve improved our team so much.”

Egbert added: “I think at the beginning of the season we weren’t playing as a team as much and we were just focusing on indivdiual stuff just to get in the flow of our own game. But now, we’re talking with each other and just being really positive with one another.

Stat leaders for Northeast Dubois were Taylor Dodd (six kills, 13 digs), Kendyl Heeke (seven assists), Brooklyn Dodd (22 digs) and Chloe Terwiske (10 digs).

After a big victory over sectional foe Springs Valley earlier in the week, Smith was disappointed with the lack of energy and focus as a group in the Jeeps loss on Thursday evening.

“I told them coming into this match that they don’t have anything to lose because we’re a class 1A school and Jasper’s a class 4A school,” Smith said. “Coming into this (match) I think they thought they could do it but it’s something about coming into this gym. We have to play in this gym and it’s like this black cloud hanging over their head and they can’t get out of that mental state to play.”

With a team of just a total of 14 players, the Jeeps have had to use a few freshmen right away in varsity action such as Hadley Fuhrman and Brinley Royer.

While she thinks they have some high potential for the future, Smith is still looking to see some more from the seniors in some of their tougher matches.

“I’m looking for our seniors to give them something to feed off of and some games you have it and some you don’t,” Smith said. “They talk a lot about being a family but you can clearly tell when we’re not.”

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