Raiders sweep Rangers on volleyball court

Photos by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Southridge sophomore Bailey Keusch (22) bumps a ball on Thursday at Forest Park. The Raiders swept the Rangers, 26-24, 25-19, 25-20.

By COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

FERDINAND — Southridge's three-game skid is history.

The Raiders renewed their county and Pocket Athletic Conference rivalry with Forest Park on Thursday, coming away with a 3-0 with a 26-24 win in the first set, 25-19 in set two and staving off a Forest Park rally for a 25-20 win in the third set to get the victory.

"We've had a rough season, rougher than I thought we were going to have," Southridge coach Mande Keusch said. "We've struggled and we've had players out here and there. It's been challenging. We've had to go through a couple different lineups throughout the season and girls will get used to something and then we have to start all over again because somebody's out or somebody's hurt or something along those lines.

"I thought the girls came out firing aggressive," Keusch continued. "We've had a lot of games where we've played even strong teams close. We've always lost by a couple points here and there in each game."

That was Southridge's fifth victory of 2020, and Keusch told her players afterward that any win feels like a sectional win at this point because of how much the team needs it. The Raiders rallied in the first set, and only built from there.

Southridge was down, but not out in the opening set. The Raiders held a 12-9 lead, only for Forest Park to reel off seven consecutive points at 16-12. However, Southridge kept being persistent, tying things at 21-21, 23-23 and 24-24. The Raiders then erupted when they notched the final two points for a 26-24 win.

"I think they were maybe just a little too timid, didn't want to be super-aggressive," Forest Park coach Tara LaGrange said of the Rangers. "And yeah, then going into set two, that takes some of the wind out of your sails whenever that happens."

The Raiders pulled together with some serves that the Rangers couldn't always return or put in play, and the points kept going in Southridge's favor. Senior Rose Tempel helped the Raiders get off to a 5-0 start in the third set with the serving she was doing.

"I thought the girls did a better job of mixing up their serves, being a little more strategic," Keusch said. "I said, "You got to serve aggressively, but that doesn't mean we serve it out of bounds.'"

The Raiders had built a 20-8 lead in the third set when Rangers senior Larissa Brandes fell on her hip, forcing a stoppage of play. LaGrange attended to Brandes, who was able to get up and received a round of applause. She said the team would watch Brandes' hip and see what happens.

Forest Park junior Ali Brandes gets ready to serve against Southridge on Thursday. The Rangers fell to the Raiders in three sets.

The Rangers tried their hand at a comeback, however, turning a 20-8 deficit into a 23-19 deficit. That forced Keusch to call a timeout, and Forest Park grabbed another point after the timeout.

"These girls do have a lot of heart," LaGrange said. "They want to win, and so when they can put it all together, it does look good."

Keusch told her players in that third set she gave them every opportunity to not have to call a timeout, as she sometimes tries to wait to see if her players can pull through adversity. She told her players that they could do it, and they got the final two points of the game.

These two teams could see each other on Saturday when Southridge plays hosts to a volleyball tournament. LaGrange said her players talked in the locker room after Thursday's loss about the opportunity for retribution.

"We are going to work on defense, covering a lot of the tips and a lot of the hits that Southridge gave us, and really just working on keeping our head in the game at all times," LaGrange said.

The Raiders are set to have junior Myah Montgomery back in action on Saturday, which will mean another different lineup for the tournament, and they hope to build off of this win.

"We only won one PAC game last year, and this is our second, so that's already an improvement for us from last year," Keusch said. "So, I'm proud of that."




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