Rangers unable to get untracked in sectional semisOctober 17, 2019
By JONATHAN SAXON
FERDINAND — The Forest Park volleyball team didn’t get the start it wanted Thursday night against North Knox. In fact, it seemed the team couldn’t get a rhythm going, as the Rangers dropped the first set against the Warriors. However, it looked like the Rangers could flip the script in the second set when they started playing like the team that fought its way past Southridge on Monday.
But this is the time of year when strange things are bound to occur, and the Class 2A sectional semifinal Forest Park hosted proved no exception, as the Rangers struggled to score the final point needed to put the second set away. With the door left open, the momentum the Rangers harnessed was slowly siphoned from them, and eventually the Warriors seized the opening to take the set on the way to a 3-0 sweep (25-9, 30-28, 25-14).
Rangers coach Alexa Rasche had trouble finding the words for what happened against the Warriors (14-8). She is used to seeing her team fight past slow starts. But Forest Park's opening bid in postseason play was different. The closing instinct wasn’t there when the Rangers needed it most, and the extra opportunities the Warriors received because of that came back to bite them.
“I feel like we started the game hesitant, not really playing with sharpness,” Rasche said. “Once we got things going, it seem like we just let it slip away. I don’t even know what happened. We started to get so high and on top, then it just dissipated before us.”
The Rangers started the second set strong, as seniors Macie Zink and Faith Zazzetti jumped the team to a 15-6 lead. But the Warriors were able to stay competitive, thanks to the senior trio of Grace Yochum, Megan Cross and Mallory Earhart. But Forest Park’s aggressive play at the net kept the pressure on North Knox, and the Rangers eventually built a 24-18 edge, just one point from tying the match at a game apiece.
But then the closing struggles started to kick in.
First, there was a Ranger error that turned the serve back in the Warriors’ favor. What followed was a pair of aces and a triplet of kills from the Warriors that tied the score at 24. Another error returned the serve to the Rangers, but kills from Yochum and Cross put the Warriors up 26-25. A kill from Zink combined with a Warrior error swung the pendulum back the Rangers’ way, but Yochum scored another clutch kill to tie the set again at 27.
Forest Park looked like it might have received an olive branch when North Knox committed another out-of-bounds error, but the Rangers gave the advantage right back with a pair of their own missteps. The Warriors finally scored the decisive point with a shot that landed right on line in the back corner of the Rangers’ side of the court, winning the second set for the Warriors, 30-28. Having given everything they could to win the second set, the Rangers weren’t able to muster what they needed to force a fourth set.
Zink had nine kills to pace Forest Park, while Zazzetti had another seven. Senior setter Kylie Giesler finished with 21 assists, and senior libero Bralyn Boehm topped the Rangers' statistical summary with eight digs.
Despite the bitter end, Rasche was proud of the progress the Rangers made this season, which included finishing with six more wins than last season. While the pain of loss was heavy on the team, the coach hopes the girls who come back out for next season will heed the words of the seniors, and seize their moment when it comes in 2020.
“Each year they get to taste a bit more of what it’s like to be successful, what we expect of them,” Rasche said. “We had a senior in there say ‘Don’t take anything for granted. No regrets. Practice hard everyday.’ That would resonate with me, so I hope those comments would help them.”
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