Hohl envisions 'different ballgame' for Jasper volleyball

Photo by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Jasper volleyball hasn't won a sectional since 2016, but Wildcats coach Jennifer Hohl likes the weapons this year's team has. 

By COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

JASPER - Jasper is tied with Castle for a state-record 38 sectional volleyball championships, but even successful programs can go through some years without collecting hardware. The Wildcats made it to last year's sectional championship but finished runner-up to Southern Indiana Athletic Conference rival Evansville Reitz. They ended their season with a 14-17 record.

However, Jasper coach Jennifer Hohl has her reasons for optimism in 2021.

"I think it's going to be a different ballgame for Jasper volleyball this year with the girls that we have," Hohl said. "They did fine last year, and they worked hard, but I think this year, we have more weapons. We have more people that can put a ball down consistently."

Much of last year's team is returning this season. Caroline Kaiser is not back for her senior year, while Allison Mair, Kayla Fuhs and Grace Kizior all graduated, but Jasper will have different options to step in and fill those voids. The Wildcats will turn to juniors Libby Mehringer and Paige O'Neil to set for them in the wake of Kizior's graduation.

Mair was a middle blocker for Jasper, and Fuhs an outside hitter, but Hohl said Jasper has tried many of its players at different positions this summer.

"I think (senior) Izzy Hopf has really kind of locked down a middle position, but then (junior) Bailey Lents and (sophomore) Ava (Englert), they've been switching back and forth between middle and hitting right," Hohl said. "So, I think they're going to have significant roles as well.

"We'll have (senior) Kennedy Matheis as an outside hitter, (junior) Brynne Brosmer can be an outside hitter, (sophomore) Paige Giesler can be an outside hitter," she added.

Hohl had good things to say about both Giesler and Englert. The Wildcats return top defender Jayden Pfister, and the third-year coach isn't worried about defense. She sees fellow senior Aspen Sermersheim, junior Riley Fischer, plus Giesler, all getting time in the back row.

"We've been very pleased with what she brought last year as a freshman on JV," she said of Giesler. "She's just a pretty solid player and a smart player. So, we foresee her having a big role in the back row as well."

Meanwhile, Hohl hailed Englert for all the progress she has made.

"I think she has improved most out of everybody that we have within our program right now, and definitely in a good way," Hohl said of Englert. "And she earned her spot on the varsity on the team this year. So, we're excited to see what she can do for us."

The Wildcats will feature an elderly group, as 10 of their 13 players on the roster are upperclassmen. They have four seniors on the squad this year in Pfister, Sermersheim, Hopf and Kennedy Matheis. Hohl lauded the four of them for raising the standard of what the coaches want the program to be. She noted they'll challenge, push and encourage their teammates.

Hohl believes they'll have a number of options to turn to for offense and slamming it home for the points.

"This year, we will have a lot of weapons, I feel like," she said. "Izzy has really stepped it up...She really improved in the weight room and so that kind of carries over onto the court of her being a little more aggressive on her hitting and blocking. I really foresee Ava being a top dog for a lot of kills.

"Libby, she will still be probably one of our top hitters - whether it be her attacking as a front row setter - she's worked on that a lot, or if we're a running a 6-2 with Paige and Paige is setting Libby," Hohl continued. "Between, I think, Libby and Izzy, Bailey Lents and Ava - I really foresee a lot of them getting us a lot of kills in games."

She also mentioned Hopf, Lents, Englert, plus Sermersheim as players she'd want in the front row this year. Hohl noted how tall, lanky and strong the four of them are, believing they'll form a nice wall for the Wildcats.

They're in the process of all getting back into now. Jasper took on Southridge at an IHSAA Referee Clinic Aug. 7 at home, are scheduled to have a scrimmage Thursday at Barr-Reeve and then it'll be showtime Monday at home against Loogootee for the opener.

Hohl believes intensity will be key in their opener versus the Lions.

"Coming out with a lot of enthusiasm and communication and really just playing together I think will be beneficial for us playing against Loogootee," she said.




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