Jeep volleyball can’t overcome Braves in sectional


LYNNVILLE — Kortney Quinn stood amid a sea of royal blue on the Tecumseh volleyball court Saturday afternoon, eyes red and cheeks splotched with drying tears.

Nearly everyone who walked past the senior stopped to offer a hug and assurance that she’d played an amazing game for Northeast Dubois volleyball in a Class 1A sectional semifinal.

The same scene unfolded around fellow Jeep upperclassman Adi Denu as she clutched a handtowel, occasionally dabbing at her eyes.

The two, along with five other Northeast Dubois seniors, had just witnessed their prep careers come to an end in a 19-25, 25-21, 25-19, 26-24 setback against the host Braves. It marks the third time in four seasons the Jeeps (25-6) have been ousted from the postseason by Tecumseh (22-6).

“It’s awful,” Quinn said.

“It just hurts,” Denu added.

The situation wasn’t much easier to handle for Northeast Dubois coach Kendra Kopitach, who watched her team stave off a pair of fourth-set match points before ultimately succumbing to the Braves.

“That’s tough,” Kopitach said. “It’s going to take me a while to swallow that. I think (it will for) our girls, too. We really, really wanted it, and it’s difficult.”

The Jeeps came in seeking revenge not only for a five-set, regular-season defeat at the hands of Tecumseh, but also losses to the Braves in a 2016 sectional final and 2014 sectional semifinal.

“We were ready to go,” Quinn said. “We were really excited to be back and get to play and try to give it our all.”

That mentality showed in Saturday’s opening set, especially in the middle stages. The Jeeps turned a 15-12 deficit into a 19-15 advantage and never looked back. Quinn particularly was a force, flying above the net and hammering a kill at nearly every opportunity.

“I think Tecumseh knew that she was a threat, but not like what she came out as,” Kopitach said. “So I am extremely proud of Kortney Quinn for stepping up to the plate and doing what we needed her to do.”

Quinn, who finished with a team-best 19 kills, said she was “super hyped” as Northeast Dubois jumped ahead early. But the good feelings wouldn’t last long, as the Jeeps settled into a dogfight with the Braves.

Sprawling digs and commanding blocks were the order of the day in the middle two sets. Near misses were also a constant. In one example, Northeast Dubois managed a save and return of a ball that was inches from reaching the bleachers, only to see the shot fall just beyond the Tecumseh line.

In the third set, the Braves went on a 7-1 run to reach 25 points. It included a Denu attack that just missed the line, a Tecumseh serve that nicked the net and slipped into Northeast Dubois territory untouched and a Brave block that rode the length of the net before falling against the Jeeps.

“I think our communication started going really low,” said Denu, who posted eight kills and 11 digs. “We weren’t really communicating that well with each other, and I think that kind of hurt us toward the end.”

The teams’ fourth set was perhaps the most thrilling, as the Jeeps and Braves traded points in the late stages and had the crowd on its feet from a 22-22 tie to the match’s conclusion.

“We could just feel all of our fans supporting us, and we kind of fed off their energy,” Quinn said.

That was especially true with Northeast Dubois trailing 24-22, its season hanging on a final Tecumseh point. The Jeeps managed to manufacture another tie before the Braves finally shut the door.

“I don’t know if surprised would be the right word, but very impressed and proud that they could hang in there and battle through,” Kopatich said of her reaction to the Jeeps’ late fight for survival. “We have seven seniors on the team, and they did not want this to be their last game.”

But that fate befell the group, which helped capture the school’s first Blue Chip Conference crown since 2006 earlier this season and witnessed Denu reach 1,000 career kills and digs.

In the end, the contributions of Denu and Quinn, as well as 10 kills from Taylor Dodd and a 45-assist, 16-dig effort from Chloe Terwiske, weren’t enough to give the Jeeps at least one more match. But as some of her players were consoled following yet another difficult postseason loss, Kopatich was busy singing their praises.

“Overall, I thought our girls improved throughout the season,” she said. “We got more mentally tough and aggressive throughout, and really that’s all you can ask for as a coach, that they’re playing their best ball at the last part of the year. I think that’s what they did, and for that I’m very proud.”

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