Jeeps fight off stubborn Patriots in 4 sets

Photos by Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald
Northeast Dubois' Chante Miller dives for the ball during Tuesday's volleyball game at Dubois. Northeast Dubois defeated Heritage Hills 3-1. For more photos from the match, click here.


DUBOIS — Mark Twain’s familiar adage often applied to sports is that it isn’t the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

Northeast Dubois, self-professed as one of the smaller schools in any sporting event, will likely accept Twain’s assessment as it applies to the Jeeps, especially when it comes to volleyball.

“We’re a small town. Everybody looks at us as always being small. We may not have the numbers, but we have the fight,” Jeeps coach Misty Smith said Tuesday night after Northeast Dubois dispatched Heritage Hills in a grueling four-set match.

“It was an exciting game, our second exciting game this week. We knew Heritage Hills was going to be tough coming in, but with 13 girls strong on my bench, I think it’s an advantage, because we’ve got the same eight girls playing in that rotation,” Smith said. “They get to know each other, they play well together and once they get going, I feel like they’re unstoppable.”

That seemed to be the case Tuesday night as the Jeeps bounced back from losing the first set, and held off furious barrages from the Patriots in each of the next three sets to claim the hard-fought victory.

But it’s not as if Heritage Hills didn’t know it was in for a stiff challenge. Patriot coach Kayla White said after her team’s straight-set win over Forest Park on Monday that she could foresee “another tough match.” And in previewing Northeast Dubois, she warned, “if we slack off, they’re gonna take some from us. We’ve got to be mentally ready.”

The battle between the Jeeps and the Patriots was mental, physical and nail-biting.

Northeast Dubois mounted a mid-set rally in the first set, parlaying an early deficit into a 17-14 advantage on five consecutive points. But Heritage Hills reeled off eight straight points and 11 of 13 down the stretch to claim a 25-19 win that had all the markings of a short night for the hosts.

But the Patriots rarely found themselves on the long end of the score during the next three sets, although they gave the Jeeps all they could handle in each set.

Heritage Hills used a 4-0 run to take an early 5-2 lead to start the second set, but Northeast Dubois went on an 8-1 surge to take a 10-6 advantage. But the Patriots gave no quarter, remaining within striking distance until a 5-1 Jeep run put Northeast Dubois on the threshold of its first set win at 24-16. Three Heritage Hills points made it closer, but a dink by Reagan Knies capped the Jeeps’ 25-19 verdict to knot the match.

Northeast Dubois jumped out to an early 10-4 lead in the third set, and swelled its lead to 17-9 on a kill followed by an ace from Knies.

Northeast Dubois head coach Misty Smith meets with her team during a time out during Tuesday. For more photos from the match, click here.

But after the Jeeps looked like they were going to run away with the set at 19-10, the Patriots had an 11-3 run — fueled by points from Rebekah Gordon, Weslie-Anne Cochren and Hannah Marchand — to pull to within 22-21.

But Northeast Dubois closed out the set with three straight points for the 25-21 decision.

The Jeeps started the fourth set on a tear, taking a 4-1 edge on scoring by Taylor Dodd and Chloe Terwiske, and owned a 9-5 advantage before Heritage Hills went on a 7-0 spree to take a 12-9 lead. After Northeast Dubois tied the set at 14, it looked as if the Patriots had found their footing, outscoring the Jeeps 4-0 and 6-2 for a 20-16 lead heading down the stretch.

But Northeast Dubois recovered, outdistancing Heritage Hills 9-1 for a 25-21 verdict the take the match 3-1.

“I told them that every practice, every game from here on out is like a dress rehearsal for sectional,” Smith said of her charges, “and they realize going in they might be the smallest team going into sectional, but I think they know they’re one of the toughest teams in the sectional. They’re proud to be Jeeps, they like to fight. The girls are ready. They want to get sectional ready.”

While excelling in the postseason is important to the Jeeps, they have added motivation. Mary Lou Zehr, the team’s superfan who for years attended every game, has been unable to attend any games this season after a fall confined her to St. Charles Health Campus in Jasper, where she is rehabilitating. But she is with the team in spirit.

“Right now, they’re playing for Mary Lou,” Smith said. “I think going to visit her made a huge impact on her, and the girls, and they just want to keep winning. She texts us every night and says ‘What’s your score? How’d you girls do?’ They’re playing for her, they’re playing for each other and they’re playing to get stronger for sectional.”

Smith singled out Mia Smith, who “is getting a lot of digs up that she wasn’t getting at the beginning of the season.” She finished the night with 30 to lead all players.

“Chloe has always been a strong player for us,” the coach said. Terwiske paced Northeast Dubois with 38 assists, second to the 40 by Heritage Hills’ Marchand.

“And Taylor Dodd, despite a shoulder injury, is really putting them down,” Smith said. Dodd led all players with 20 kills for the match.

“It takes all six of them to get the pass, to get the set, to get the hit,” Smith pointed out. “Without those eight core girls, we couldn’t do what we keep doing. We want to take this win and this strength into the tournament, and see what we can do.”

The Jeeps host Orleans at 6 p.m. Thursday for Senior Night. Heritage Hills hosts Southridge at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

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