'Mighty' Jeeps power past Rangers in sweep

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
The Northeast Dubois’ girls volleyball team celebrates winning their match against Forest Park Tuesday evening match in Ferdinand. The Jeeps improved to 7-1 on the season with their 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-20) sweep over the Rangers as they continue their hot start to the season despite having a total of just 14 players in the entire program. For more photos from the match, click here.


FERDINAND — The Northeast Dubois volleyball team isn’t a large group in any shape or form.

Whether it’s the fact that there’s a total of just 14 players on the roster (counting both varsity and junior varsity) or even the size aspect as the Jeeps tallest player stands at just about 5-foot-7 inches.

But for senior Kendyl Heeke and the rest of the Northeast Dubois volleyball squad, that’s perfectly fine with them.

“We’re small but mighty,” said Heeke with a laugh pointing to the back of her warmup shirt that had the phrase written on it as the Jeeps motto for the season. “We don’t necessarily look the part, but we can do it.”

The phrase has become sort of a motto for the Jeeps volleyball team, who improved to 7-1 on the season after defeating Dubois County foe Forest Park 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-20) Thursday night in Ferdinand.

Northeast Dubois started the season with just 12 players total in their volleyball program but were able to recruit a few more once the year began. It hasn’t helped that the Jeeps have also had to deal with several injuries throughout the season including being without junior setter Chloe Terwiske, who Northeast Dubois is hoping to have back this Thursday.

But even with a rather smaller group, the Jeeps have made noise to start the season — both with their record and the power that their outside attackers and middle hitters have made with their kills.

“We definitely have some power and we can put the ball down pretty good at times,” said senior AJ Kirchoff who finished with a team-high 11 kills in the victory. “Even without the height, we definitely have some power behind us.”

Another aspect of their game that Northeast Dubois has been able to use to their advantage this season is their efficient usage of serves. The Jeeps had several strong serving runs throughout the match including a seven-point run late in the third set by senior Brooklyn Dodd that helped carry the Jeeps to the lead after trailing 16-14.

Heeke led the Jeeps with three aces on Tuesday night while Taylor Dodd and Mia Smith both had two each.

First-year head coach Misty Smith has preached about the importance of serves all season to her players and she’s seen the work pay off as the season has progressed.

“It’s the most important aspect because it’s our first point and it’s what gets our team going,” Smith said as the Jeeps had eight total aces in Tuesday’s victory. “If they get that first ace then they tend to feed off of that and keep going.”

In fact, the Jeeps value serving so much that there’s a drill that the team focuses on at practice that’s called “The Perfect Pass”.

The drill not only helps the Jeeps work on their serve placement and also a variety of serves to use, it also helps them make sure their accurately getting the ball to the setter.

Northeast Dubois’ Hadley Fuhrman sets the ball past Forest Park’s Kennedy Sermersheim, left, and Macie Zink in the first set of the Tuesday evening match in Ferdinand. One of the strong points for the Rangers this season has been their blocking as Sermersheim, Zink, Faith Zazzetti and Emma Hassfurther have all been rather dominant at the net throughout different points during the season. For more photos from the match, click here.

“Basically, our back row players will pass and then we have to serve to them. You have to use your aggressive serves and if you miss there’s a punishment,” Heeke said. “It’s pretty chill but you also have to work really hard to try and get (your serves) in.”

Kirchoff added: “It can be kind of a stressful drill, especially when you’re having an off day, but it’s been very, very beneficial to us this season.”

The Northeast Dubois volleyball team also has been able to be mentally strong throughout matches and fight through adversity. At several points in both the second and third sets, the Jeeps found themselves down to the Rangers as it looked like Forest Park may pull within a set.

In Set No. 2, Forest Park found themselves up 15-13 after a couple big blocks from juniors Faith Zazzetti and Macie Zink. However, the Jeeps went on a big serving run as Kirchoff helped serve the Jeeps to an 18-15 lead and Northeast Dubois didn’t look back from there as they never trailed in the set again. In set No. 3, the Rangers had built up a three-point lead at the 16-13 mark but once again strong serves helped to rally the Jeeps and pick themselves up out of a small hole en route to a straight-sets victory.

“I always try to personally think ‘Hey, we just need these two points’ and we’ve gotten them before so it’s not like we can’t do it,” said Kirchoff, describing how she handles situations where the Jeeps are trailing. “We try to tell ourselves it’s just one point at a time. I think everyone thinks like that because (coach) Misty (Smith) tell us that all the time.”

Smith added: “We’ve talked a lot about teamwork and how team means family and that starts to click in their mind. Once we tell them to get together as a family, they just kind of take off.”

For Forest Park (3-10), coach Alexa Rasche is hoping the Rangers can build on the close sets that they had in Tuesday’s match against the Jeeps and continue to work and build toward putting together a more complete game.

“We are a team that is full of athletes but we struggle to finish a complete game because we get into our own heads,” Rasche said. “We end up playing to not make an error as opposed to playing to win the point or game. By the end of the season, I hope to see these players take advantage from the start of the game until the final point.”

A positive for the Rangers has been their blocking — Zazzetti, Kennedy Sermersheim and Emma Hassfurther all had multiple blocks for Forest Park in the loss. Rasche believes that the front line has gotten more comfortable with each other and they’ve gotten stronger as a unit as the season has progressed.

For the Jeeps, they’re hoping they can continue with their “small but mighty” theme as they get into the thick of things with an abundance of tough opponents coming their way.

“We might not be the biggest team but we’ll always give you a run for your money,” Smith said. “We’re scrappy and these girls have the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen. We’re going to start seeing some tough teams soon and we’ve been preparing for that — I look for these girls to really show up in sectional.”

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