Jeeps’ stellar year ends painfully shy of titleOctober 25, 2013
By JOSEPH FANELLI
Herald Sports Writer
DUBOIS — It took Northeast Dubois maybe a second. Possibly two.
Four Jeep volleyball players sprawled out on the floor in a half moon near the net, two standing and staring at the spot where the final point, the final shot landed. The ball now rolling toward the gym doors.
Talia Terwiske was the first to move, to reach down and pick up her teammate. And then they gathered, tears already forming, some choking back sobs as Tecumseh screamed in a frenzied mob on the other side of the court.
It was a match between two talented, evenly match teams, trading shots and blocks, culminating in a fifth set with more drama than an already frenzied crowd could handle. But ultimately, Northeast Dubois could not rally a third time on the final match point and all six Jeeps had to watch as a Northeast Dubois push was blocked at the net and then fell, careening to the end line after hitting a Jeep player’s elbow.
In a back-and-forth series between two ranked teams, Class 1A No. 8 Northeast Dubois fell to No. 5 Tecumseh 15-25, 25-15, 16-25, 25-11, 18-16. Both teams faced elimination at least once in the fifth set and neither led by more than two in the last set. The Jeeps (24-8) ended a season in which they amassed the highest win total since the 2006 state finals qualifying team, but even that wasn’t enough to comfort a team that came within inches of a second straight sectional championship and a head coach in her last match with the Jeeps.
“It”˜s just tough,” coach Stephanie Schepers said. “I was shaking the whole time. You just don’t know when it’s all out there on the girls. And by no means did they ever give up. I mean, we had our faults and moments where we didn’t strike as hard as we needed, but never did they just roll over and say, ”˜OK, we’re done.’ Until the last point, that was evident in the back-and-forth until the end. You can’t say they didn’t work hard.”
Northeast Dubois gained the initial match advantage, reeling off stretches of seven and eight straight points in the first set, most noticeably while Tecumseh’s Brenna Floyd sat stuck on the sideline. Kendra Jacob connected on several sets from Terwiske and the Jeep defense gained form without the Braves’ powerful hitter in the game.
The Braves flipped the script in the second, bursting to a 9-3 lead as Floyd hounded the back row with spike after spike. The two teams traded sets three and four, again as both squads conducted lopsided runs. The first four sets all were decided by at least nine points.
“We were so positive at the beginning and we kind of got a little too cocky and gave it back to them,” Jeep junior Chloe Johnson added. “And the same thing happened the fourth game. I think it was more of a head game than anything.”
“It’s such a big game and the momentum, as soon as you get down, it’s really hard to pull yourself back up,” Schepers said. “It’s a lot of pressure on you. As a 17-, 18-year-old, that’s a lot of pressure to take on. ... So one mistake you just feel like you failed. And I feel like that’s kind of what happens. Once we got the momentum back, it kind of ended up being too late.”
No team seemed able to gain any separation in the final set. Twice, Northeast Dubois found itself in score-or-lose situations, the first at 14-13 with Tecumseh serving. On that point, the Tecumseh crowd stood up and began cheering, thinking a Floyd hit had clinched the match, but a diving save by Emily Lueken extended the point and the Jeeps knotted things at 14. Two series later, it was the Jeeps’ turn to end the game, but a Lueken spike fell inches out of bounds. Again the teams traded blows until, on the final match point, the Jeeps couldn’t handle a return at the net.
“I’m proud of them, a hell of a year,” Schepers said. “They gave it everything they had. Obviously not the outcome we would have liked, but it wasn’t like regional last year, where we lost in three (sets). They fought until the very end and I’d rather go down like that then them just giving it up. I’m proud of them, they’re going to go out and do bigger and better things. ... I told some of the juniors, they need to take over. It’s going to be their team and it’s up to them.”
“We just played our hearts out and fell short,” Lueken added.
Just two months after being swept by the Braves, the Jeeps displayed a brand of volleyball expected out of a team that won 11 matches in a row this season. And the highlights came from all seven Jeep contributors. Jenna Stemle stifled some heated Floyd spikes and corralled 27 digs while Johnson added 12. Haley Brinkman and Katelyn Helming hounded Floyd at the net all night, each recording one block. Terwiske dished out 38 assists and hustled for 16 digs. Lueken delivered a complete 20-dig, 12-kill, three-ace performance and Jacob looked unstoppable during stretches, tallying 29 kills and 13 digs.
“We played them early in the season and we’ve just evolved in such a big way,” Schepers said. “And for them to have the confidence, knowing that they beat us in three in the beginning of the season, to come in and take them to five and every single point, that’s huge for this team.”
“Sectional was the ultimate goal, but to get to the final game, and to end the way we did, I couldn’t have asked for a better last season, but they definitely made me proud,” she added as tears welled in her eyes.
There were plenty of hugs and final words to go around as the crowd milled on the court after the game. Schepers engaged with each of her players, taking extra time with the seniors with whom she spent her coaching career. She had one final message as well for Lueken, her steely outside hitter who also plays for the Northeast Dubois hoops team.
“(She just told me) that they’re really proud of me and that I’ll get them in basketball,” Lueken said.
Contact Joseph Fanelli at firstname.lastname@example.org
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