Patriots take comfort in staving off Rangers

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Heritage Hills' Nevah Barnett, right, watches teammates Hannah Marchand and Rebekah Gordon block a hit from Forest Park's Kennedy Sermersheim during Monday's volleyball game in Ferdinand. Heritage Hills defeated Forest Park 3-0. For more photos from the match, click here.


FERDINAND — When a team gets in its comfort zone, it can become complacent and vulnerable.

Or it can do what Heritage Hills did Monday night at Forest Park and win three straight volleyball sets to win the match.

“We decided what speed we wanted to play and we were comfortable at, and so we just kinda set it at that tempo and played with the ball we wanted to,” Coach Kayla White explained after her Patriots posted a 25-21, 25-17, 25-17 win. “We just kinda stayed where we were comfortable at and then utilized the comfort.”

Heritage Hills found itself on the short end of the score early in the first set, but the Patriots reeled off four straight points to take the lead, and never trailed the rest of the night.

“There were a couple of times where Becca (Gordon) and Shelby Skelton were just powerhouses in the front, and then you look in the back, and the defense was getting up everything. I think everyone worked at their moment — the setter did well at moments and the defense did well at moments, just worked really hard, and then the blockers did well at moments,” White observed. “We keep talking in the huddles that you have to do your part, so I think they did well at their part when it was needed — ‘I need to block now, so I’m gonna do it’ — they were all impressive tonight. They all did their game today, and it kinda worked.”

To be sure, White has a gift for understatement.

While the Rangers kept the first set close — Heritage Hills’ largest lead was at 15-10 — the Patriots controlled the second and third sets from the outset. Heritage Hills led by as many as 10 midway through the second set before Forest Park scored five straight points to close the deficit to 20-15. Then in the third set, the Rangers matched the Patriots almost point for point, pulling even at 13 and staying within a point or two until it was a 19-17 count. But Heritage Hills reeled off six straight points to seal the win.

But for every action, there is a reaction.

“I think we had a lot of moments where we just kinda gave it right back to them, some free balls or tips back at us that we didn’t take advantage of, and Heritage Hills, they’re a team that, if you aren’t swinging at them, they will swing right at you,” Forest Park coach Alexa Rasche said.

“We didn’t take advantage of some of those opportunities that they gave us. We dug the heck out of them — we had 60 digs in three sets, which was huge, and [Heritage Hills] weren’t letting up on their swings, so I’m very happy how we played on defense tonight. It was just some things we could have cleaned up, a couple of moments that we maybe could have finished harder than what we did. We’ve got to stop with the soft swings, make a statement with every swing.”

Forest Park's Faith Zazzetti jumps to block the ball after a hit from Heritage Hills' Rebekah Gordon during Monday's volleyball game in Ferdinand. For more photos from the match, click here.

While the Rangers were not able to get the upper hand on the night, Rasche did notice some bright spots.

“I felt like tonight our libero, Bralyn Boehm, really did a good job shifting the defense when necessary, picking up a lot of trash, and most of her passes were spot on tonight, so I was very happy with her play tonight,” the coach said. “Macie Zink led us in kills tonight — she always comes out strong swinging hard — but we also had Kennedy Sermersheim, most of her balls were placed, they were tips, it wasn’t exactly swinging. If we can get her swinging a little bit more, I’ll be happy, but she was putting [the ball] where they weren’t, so you can’t complain about that.”

Forest Park opened the match with a Zink kill for a 1-0 lead, and owned advantages of 3-1 and 5-3 before Heritage Hills tied the game at 5 on a Gordon spike. The Patriots then had scoring spurts of four in a row and three in a row to build the 15-10 advantage. After the Rangers recorded three points of their own to pull to within two, the teams virtually traded points for the rest of the set enroute to the 25-21 final.

Heritage Hills scored three straight points and nine of the first 12 to start the second set enroute to an 18-8 cushion, but Forest Park rallied to cut its deficit to 19-15. But the Patriots scored five of the final six points to claim the second set, 25-17.

Heritage Hills again started with three consecutive points to open the third set, but the Rangers battled back and stayed within striking distance throughout. After trailing 13-9, Forest Park collected four consecutive points to tie the game, and hung close until it was 19-17. That’s when the Patriots used kills by Weslie-Anne Cochran, Gordon and Skelton to spearhead the set’s final six points for the win.

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