Pats cruise by Rangers in sweepSeptember 25, 2018
BY JONATHAN SAXON
LINCOLN CITY — As the volleyball regular season comes to close, teams across Indiana are doing their best to pull together and get themselves in tip-top shape going into sectional play. Monday night saw two area teams get together to settle some of the last bit of business in the Pocket Athletic Conference when the Heritage Hills Patriots defeated the Forest Park Rangers 3-0 (25-9, 27-25, 25-15) for the fourth win in their past five games.
Heritage Hills coach Kim White pointed to the first and third games as the versions of her team she likes to see playing on the court, while also acknowledging the fight her players showed in the second game to pull out a tightly contested win.
“We did well in [games] one and three. Two was a little bit of a struggle,” she said. “But the way that they fought out of it and got the lead, I’m pleased with that. Everything we talked about in practice they put into play and it showed.”
The first game was was nothing short of a display of dominance. The Patriots (9-15, 2-4) jumped out to a 15-0 headstart before the Rangers (2-13, 1-5) were able to respond with any points of their own. The blitz was led by sophomore middle hitter Rebekah Gordon, but also included contributions from sophomore outside hitter Lilly Vance, senior outside hitter/setter Grace Vinson and a healthy dose of aces from junior libero Hannah Schnuck.
By the time Forest Park was able to get its first kills, the horses had already escaped from the barn. They managed to lay down a few shots against the Pats, but they couldn’t get themselves in sync to run their sets and gain any control over the first game. When it was all said and done, Heritage Hills found themselves the victors in the first game, 25-9.
But the next game played out a bit differently. The Rangers started Game 2 with two of the first three points before the Pats put together a four-kill run to give themselves a 5-2 edge. But senior outside hitter Macie Zink and the rest of Forest Park’s frontline responded with a 5-0 run of their own to take back the lead. A couple of points for the Pats did little to break up the momentum, as sophomore Ali Welp, junior middle hitter Kennedy Sermersheim and junior outside hitter/setter Kylie Giesler helped engineer another run for the Rangers.
But Heritage Hills didn’t fold. Instead, the Pats brought themselves back to center and patched things up with a nine-kill run that gave Heritage Hills a 16-12 cushion. However, Forest Park kept fighting, and answered with a seven-kill run to reclaim the lead at 19-16. Both teams exchanged shots and kills until an ace from Gordon tied the game at 20. The seesaw continued to a 25-25 tie, until Heritage Hills was finally able to get the final two kills necessary to win the second game, 27-25.
The third game finished things off for the evening. The Patriots again jumped out to an early lead. The Rangers mustered what they could to fight back, but another 9-0 run by the Pats all but sealed the final set.
Gordon led Heritage Hills with 10 kills (three aces) to go along with for digs and a block. Freshman outside hitter Shelby Skelton had seven kills (two aces) and two digs. Vance finished with five kills, five digs, a block and an assist. Junior setter Briana Quinn had 17 assists, and Schnuck had 16 digs.
“Our first and third sets were really good, but then the second set, I was getting kind of nervous. I’m happy we pulled through,” Gordon said. “The setters and defense worked hard. We just tried to play as aggressive as we can.”
Forest Park's junior middle hitter paced the Rangers with six kills to go along with two blocks. Zink had five kills. Kylie Giesler led the team with 12 assists, and senior defensive specialist Jaylyn Giesler had 12 digs.
It has been a tough year for the Rangers, who lost dropped their 10th in a row in their loss to the Pats. But there have been moments on the court when the team came together and put plays together to build up momentum. Their problem lies in keeping the edge.
“Our mindset was awful the first game,” Zink said. “We’re the team that needs to be excited in order to pull off something. [We] need the mindset that we can do it, and come together in practice and work as hard as we would at any other time.”
However, their coach, Alexa Rashe, wants the players to look at how close they battled with the Pats in their second game, and know that those high-performance moments are not aberrations. They have to believe they are capable of maintaining that lift over the course of a full set of games.
“Our front row was getting some solid swings. That was something we had been missing for awhile,” she said. “I want them to keep their morale up. I hope they can see their potential. They make these big plays during a game, and I want them to know those plays are not flukes. They are capable of making those plays throughout the entire game.”
The season hasn’t been a totally smooth ride for the Patriots either, but they seem to have found the flow that works for them over their past few games. White credits the success with the girls finally learning each other’s ticks as players, and hopes they can just get tighter in that area as the season draws to a close.
“At the beginning it was a bunch of young bodies who were starting to get to know each other,” she said. “They're starting to get used to each other. The setters know what each hitter likes, they’re getting comfortable and that’s starting to show. We can run a faster offense because they know what they want to do. It’s progressed to a team that’s used to the speed of varsity ball.”
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