Jasper shifting focus after beating RaidersSeptember 26, 2019
By JONATHAN SAXON
HUNTINGBURG — A pair of county rivals met Thursday night and battled it out to see who would reign supreme over the net that stood between them. Jasper and Southridge came in, both with three-match losing streaks, so turning a new page at this late point in the season was foremost on the minds of both teams.
The rivals scrapped hard for every kill, block and dig, but in the end, the Wildcats were able to pick up the win over the Raiders in four sets, 25-17, 22-25, 25-16, 25-19.
Wildcats coach Jennifer Hohl didn’t take anything away from the Raiders (8-14, 1-3), but she thought her team played uninspired volleyball at times. She thought Jasper had to overcome themselves in addition to everything Southridge threw at them Thursday night in order to win.
“The Raiders played well. At times we were very bland and complacent in the lack of executing,” Hohl said. “But at times when we were on, we were performing well.”
The opening skirmish set the tone for the match as the Wildcats (14-10, 4-0) and Raiders traded points with neither side gaining a distinct advantage. However, Jasper was finally able to get some separation behind kills from senior middle hitter Riley Merder and sophomore Izzy Hopf, combined with a series of Southridge errors. A few more scores from junior middle hitter Allison Mair and senior outside hitter Reagan Egbert helped solidify the lead.
But controversy struck near the end of the set.
At the time, Jasper owned a 24-17 edge during the set-point play. It appeared Southridge sophomore middle hitter Myah Montgomery came up with a block on Hopf to extend the set. The Raider crowd cheered, but the officials didn’t signal the point for Southridge, as they couldn’t tell which side of the net the ball came down on. Both sides pleaded their cases, but the officials awarded Jasper the final point after ruling that the ball came to rest on Southridge’s side of the net.
The Raiders were understandably upset, but they bounced back in the second set. An early flurry of Jasper kills put the Raiders in an 8-2 hole, but senior middle hitter Anna Altstadt and freshman outside hitter Bailey Keusch initiated a push to get the Raiders back in the hunt. Altstadt eventually netted the block and kill on back-to-back plays that finally gave the Raiders the lead. Junior outside hitter Rose Tempel extended the advantage, and senior setter Savannah Goeppner added consecutive aces for good measure. Jasper tried to claw back, but a final ace from senior libero Tatiana Delgado sealed it for Southridge, 25-22, to tie the match.
Both teams were neck and neck to start the third set, but a 9-4 run from Jasper gave the Wildcats space from Southridge. Hopf, Mair and Egbert started to come on strong during the middle of the set, but Altstadt, Tempel and junior middle hitter Maddie Songer did all they could to answer with authority. But Jasper was able to maintain the pressure, and a final kill from Merder won the third set and put the Wildcats up 2-1 over the Raiders.
Jasper tried to pour it on in the fourth set, but Southridge fought back to tie the set a 9. Scores from Songer and Altstadt gave the Raiders a brief advantage, but the Wildcats wrestled the lead back after kills from Egbert, Mair and sophomore Caroline Kaiser. The Raiders didn’t go down easy, as Goeppner and Keusch fought back late in the set to get Southridge back in it. But a couple of Southridge errors and the final helpings of Mair, Egbert and Hopf were too much to overcome, and Jasper claimed the fourth set to win the match.
Mair finished with 18 kills, while Merder and Hopf each had 12. Green had a season-high 55 assists, and Fuhs chipped in 21 digs.
“I feel like we could have come together a little more,” Merder said. “We definitely hesitated on some balls that we knew were ours. I’m not going to take any credit away from Southridge, but we need to pick it up as a team and put the ball down when it needs to be put down.”
Altstadt and Keusch both had eight kills to lead the Raiders. Songer had 14 assists and 11 digs.
“I think we play really well,” said Altstadt. “We had good connections all around, and we had a lot more passion tonight, more than normal. That’s the best we played all season. I’m really proud of us.”
Raiders coach Mande Keusch echoed those sentiments, and believes the team played its best game all season against the Wildcats. She and the girls were disappointed in some of the calls, but they were resilient in spite of it all, and won’t hang their heads over this match. For Southridge, it’s just on to the next endeavor.
“We just have to control what we can do on the court,” she said. “I was glad to see after we lost the first one tight, we could come back and win that second. I think we’re heading in the right direction.”
Hohl hopes Thursday’s win leads the Wildcats out of the valley portion of their season and back to another peak as they head into the last stretch of matches. At this point, she is learning that she can only push the team so far focusing on the negatives they’ve experienced lately, so she is choosing to adjust her frequency to amplify what the team is doing well going into the final stretch.
“I did a little bit of reflection and pointed out that I was focusing too much on the negative,” Hohl said. “For us to be successful, we have to focus on what we’re doing right. We’re going to talk about what’s working versus focusing on the negative.”
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