High-flying Rangers take 3-0 sweep over North Knox

Photo by Jimmy Lafakis/The Herald
Forest Park volleyball players celebrate after winning Tuesday evening’s contest against North Knox at Eastern Greene. The Rangers claimed a 25-23, 25-21, 25-22 victory over the Warriors.

By JIMMY LAFAKIS
jlafakis@dcherald.com

BLOOMFIELD — As Tuesday evening’s Sectional 47 volleyball game between Forest Park (8-17) and North Knox progressed, Rangers head coach Tara LaGrange kept her energy high. When Forest Park earned key points in its 3-0 victory at Eastern Greene, LaGrange encouraged the Rangers to continue their strong play.

“I’ve noticed over the season that this team requires a lot of energy,” she said. “I’m already a vocal coach anyway. That really doesn’t bother me. I’m a very energetic person. Keeping the girls up with energy — fired up and fighting for their points — is very important for them.”

The all-around positivity played a major factor in the 25-23, 25-21, 25-22 win. When the Warriors scored the first three points of the contest, the Rangers demonstrated poise and resilience.

Deadlocked in a 10-10 tie in the first set, the squads knotted the score once again at 13-13. Forest Park surged ahead and forced a North Knox timeout at 22-20.

Proficient net play sealed the Rangers’ initial victory, and Forest Park never relinquished that momentum.

“At first, we weren’t getting our blocks together,” Rangers junior middle hitter Ali Welp said. “We came together and got our blocks together. When we put our blocks down, they got frustrated. They got into their heads, which was good for us.”

Although the Warriors led 11-8 in the second set, the Rangers answered back. After Forest Park forced a 12-12 tie, the Rangers rattled off three consecutive points.

Those critical points forced the Warriors to call a timeout. The second set concluded in a similar fashion to the first, as powerful Forest Park blocks amplified the arena.

“I was super-proud of my blockers tonight,” LaGrange said. “That’s one of the things that we have kind of struggled with throughout the season. Practice after practice, we’ve worked with our blockers. We’ve worked with our hitters. Reading hitters, those kinds of things. They proved they could do it. I was very pleased.”

When the third frame began, Forest Park seized early opportunities to strike. The Rangers stormed out to an 11-5 lead in the set.

While the Warriors scrambled to score, the Rangers remained steady. A 22-19 Forest Park lead caused another North Knox timeout.

The Warriors trimmed the deficit to 23-22, but the Rangers claimed the final two points. As the ball fell to the ground at match point, the Forest Park bench burst into a triumphant celebration.

“We have fought and fought and fought throughout the season,” LaGrange said. “It feels like in so many games, we’ve come up short. In this one, they stepped u

p tonight. They really proved that they can play.”

Sophomore outside hitter Katelynn Englert and junior outside hitter Avari Burger notched seven kills apiece for the Rangers. Junior setter Ali Brandes dished out a team-high 16 assists, while sophomore setter Kenzie Schulz added seven.

“Our setters don’t have too much of a struggle where we have to rely on one girl that they have to set to,” LaGrange said. “We have a really good front line, so they have options. I think that helps everybody in the whole scheme of things. Then, our setters aren’t so stressed about hitting it to a specific person. One hitter doesn’t have all the weight on their shoulders to carry the team. The fact that we have a wide range of abilities on our team is very helpful.”

Welp’s team-high seven blocks provided a major boost for Forest Park. Junior middle hitter Philicity Collignon added three blocks.

Forest Park will return at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The Rangers will face Linton-Stockton in the sectional semifinals.

“I can’t wait to see where that goes,” Burger said. “Hopefully, we play our hearts out like tonight.”




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