Rangers mesh new system with sisterly setters

Herald Sports Writer

FERDINAND — Sophia Bolte and Gabby Hoffman, in Bolte’s opinion, are “basically like sisters.”

So, like sisters, the teammates on the Forest Park volleyball team talk back and forth, finishing each other’s thoughts and even engaging in some harmless banter.


“I’m a senior and she’s a junior so I kind of have the upper edge,” Bolte said.

“Yeah, I’m really scared of you,” Hoffman replied in mock fear.

Also like sisters, they share. They share the court, they share advice and, most importantly, they share the title as the Rangers’ setter.

It’s the experiment that Ranger coach Jamie Giesler has been thrilled with thus far, using two full-time setters instead of the usual one with Forest Park’s new 6-2 rotation. Any initial trepidation from Giesler has disappeared as Bolte and Hoffman have split the position seamlessly, bringing their sets of strengths and weaknesses to a Ranger squad that dispatched South Spencer 25-15, 25-14, 25-21 Monday evening in Ferdinand.

“At the start of the season, I was a little bit concerned about it, (but) they are doing great,” Giesler said. “I couldn’t have asked for more from them.”

In the past, Forest Park (3-0, 2-0 Pocket Athletic Conference) has operated with a single setter — and with that position being volleyball’s version of a point guard, communication is key.

“The biggest difference when you go from a 5-1 to a 6-2 is consistency,” Giesler said. “If you have (one setter), you keep the flow of the game going, you keep the consistency of the setter going and your setter and hitters have a better timing pattern.

“With a 6-2, its’s just a little bit of an adjustment in learning and getting that connection with a different setter each time. As we play more games, that consistency is going to get down pat. Right now, they look really good.”

Early against the Rebels, though, the Rangers had trouble just getting the ball to their setters. Forest Park struggled at times dealing with a few of the Rebels’ jump serves. But once “the kids got that back in check,” Giesler said, the Rangers surged ahead, as in the first set when they blew open a 15-all game with the final 10 points.

“We’re really good about once we get behind, we know we have to get back,” Hoffman said.

“Because we know if we get down, then we’re never going to get back up,” Bolte added.

Giesler decided on the two-setter system when she couldn’t choose between Bolte or Hoffman to replace last season’s setter, her daughter Adria. What each offers is hustle, communication and pinpoint passes. Bolte prefers the quicks — the uptempo sets to accelerate balls across quickly and keep defenses unprepared. Hoffman can’t resist the back-set — facing one direction and then popping the ball to an outside hitter behind her. Monday, Bolte finished with 14 assists and Hoffman dished out 10. Hoffman also displayed a knack for serves, dialing up the final eight points in Monday’s second set while earning two of her team-high three aces.

Each has the advantage of working with a barrage of experienced hitters, too.

Lydia Lange served as the pair’s go-to outside threat, piling up a team-high 12 kills. Jordan Voges was next with four, along with two blocks, and seniors Anna Hagedorn and Kacy Gogel sprinkled in a couple of big-time slams as well. Libero Madi Giesler provided 12 digs.

“It’s awesome,” Bolte said. “You can just rely on (the hitters) for anything.”

If there’s any rivalry between them, the pair have hidden it well. Each notes how well they’ve worked together and it’s that kind of tolerance that has Giesler excited about a team that has nixed some of the cattiness she said surfaced at times last season.

“Everybody is out there, everybody is where they need to be and I think that’s really helped us in the start of the season,” Giesler said. “We’re not really worried about somebody playing instead of me.”

The Rangers will need all of the synergy they can muster the rest of the week. They travel to Evansville today to face Class 2A No. 2 Mater Dei, the team that knocked them out of the sectional last season, and host Class 1A No. 1 Barr-Reeve on Thursday — the type of early season-season challenges the Rangers embrace.

“Tomorrow night is going to be a huge test for us,” Giesler said. “Playing Mater Dei, we’re going to really see what we have. This week is going to be a killer week for us. We’ve got a ton of games, a ton of big games this week.

“We have a team that we can go into Mater Dei and we can do stellar with everything that we do, but we won’t know that until we get there tomorrow night and see how we play.”

Contact Joseph Fanelli at jfanelli@dcherald.com.

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