Rangers ride Burger's early hot hand to win

Photo by Hunter Tickel/Special To The Herald
Forest Park seniors Philicity Collignon (4) and Ali Welp (10) attempt a block against Tell City on Tuesday in Ferdinand. The Rangers won, 3-1. 
Special To The Herald

FERDINAND — Tuesday's matchup between Forest Park (7-7, 3-2) and Tell City was a golden chance for Forest Park to even its record and move above .500 in the Pocket Athletic Conference.

This outcome materialized.

In search of back-to-back PAC wins in two days, Forest Park came out victorious 3-1 with sets of 25-19, 16-25, 25-22 and 25-16.

The opening point of the night came on a kill from the left side by junior Katelyn Englert. 

Coming off a four-block outing against Princeton, senior middle hitter Ali Welp thwarted hits at the net all night and provided instant offense notching a kill to go up 5-0. 

The fast start ensued with an Englert ace to make it 7-1. After Tell City trailed 9-3, senior Lainey Peter smashed two aces in a 6-0 run that knotted the set. 

After a 3-0 win over Princeton on Monday, in which senior outside hitter Avari Burger hit 12 kills on 26 attempts, the veteran amassed six kills in the opening set, including a crucial kill in the middle to go up 10-9 to halt the bleeding. 

"It felt really good," Burger said. "We tried to look at the spots that were open and make sure to aim for those whenever we were hitting. Whenever we did get the chance for a good set, we made sure to slam the ball down."

The frontline continues to set the tone as the squad's linchpin.

There were four more deadlocks before the Rangers ran away with the set 9-4. Burger had a pair of kills during the close-out spurt. 

In the second set, the fortunes reversed as the Marksmen led by seven from the start. The lead swelled to eight twice at 18-10 and 23-15 as Tell City withstood a 4-0 Forest Park jolt that cut it to 18-14.

"First set, we were excited, they were ready to play," Rangers coach Tara LaGrange said. "They came out and they dominated. (The) second set I felt like it was a little bit of they started to relax a little and think they were okay and then they were not. Tell City has a scrappy team. I got to give it to them, they have good hitters. They were able to pick up a lot."

Though they dropped the set, Burger never lost faith that the team would emerge from the match unscathed.

"I thought we were for sure going to get the win," Burger said. "If we come down on ourselves, we always come back up in the end."

In the next set, the squads went toe-to-toe. Early on, Burger put the Rangers ahead twice on surging swats from the left.

After a couple more ties, the Marksmen went ahead 11-10. The lead switched hands one final time as Forest Park took another set. 

The Rangers led 15-7 in the final set before edging Tell City 25-16 for the win. 

Forest Park moved one victory away from matching last year's total at eight with 11 matches still on the slate. In the PAC, the squad equaled last season's three-win campaign with nine league matches to spare.

"We are a lot more scrappier than last year," Burger said. "We go for everything. We make sure to look for the open spots to push the ball to or hit the ball to. I think our confidence is a lot better, too, as well (as) our endurance. We get way more when we get a point."

In the preseason, LaGrange said she anticipated a winning year, which is well within reach just past the midpoint of 2021.

"I feel like we did take a huge leap up," LaGrange said. "The girls did really work hard in the offseason. I had a lot of girls that came to the offseason stuff. They really worked hard to improve their game, and it really has shown - so I'm proud of that."

In her second year at the helm, she is back coaching a senior class of four that she initially instructed in eighth grade. 

The Rangers travel to Huntingburg to battle Dubois County rival Southridge on Thursday. 

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