Slam sparks set, but Southridge still craves more

By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer

HUNTINGBURG — To slam or not to slam, that was not the question.

It’s never the question with Maddie Neu. Heck, she’d done the same thing as a freshman. So as the Southridge senior barreled toward the scorer’s table, which offered a modest blanket of padding on its front side, the thought of “What am I doing?” wasn’t swirling in her head.

Neu

So she dove, and hit the ball, then hit the table, pushing it back a few feet and inducing a giant thud on impact. A collective gasp followed, relieved by Neu hopping to her feet, which in turn brought heightened applause inside the Southridge High School gym.

“Yeah, I did that,” Neu confessed with a smile. “I didn’t realize I hit the scoreboard until I looked up and was like, ‘What did I just move? Oh, hey guys. I’ll walk back now.’”

The exertion offered a contagion, it seemed, as the Raiders reeled off six of the next nine points to claim their first set of the season and pull within one set of Washington in Tuesday’s season opener. Yes, the Hatchets grabbed the next game to stroll away with a 25-19, 25-18, 23-25, 25-18 triumph, but just as with so many other samples from Southridge’s effort, Neu’s stab reflected the whatever-it-takes mantra Raider coach Sarah Rogers sees as the team’s ticket toward success.

“They are so pumped and they are so ready. They want to win so bad and it’s been obvious,” Rogers said. “It’s there. … They’re all excited to forget about last season and move forward. We’ve just got to get over that hump.”

Lubbehusen

At times Tuesday, evidence emerged suggesting the program that recorded a pair of wins last season had ditched its old ways — a smattering of sizzling serves, spirited spikes and hustle plays galore.

Yet there were also the backward steps — the sometimes-shaky passes, the miscommunications, the 14 missed serves that squashed the Raiders’ momentum in some key spots. And “when you’re giving the other team points and they’ve got a girl in the middle like they have, you’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity you have to score,” Rogers said. “We just didn’t take advantage of that tonight.”

The girl Rogers referenced was 6-foot-1 senior Megan Arnold, Washington’s lone All-Big Eight Conference representative last year. At times, the Raiders conjured up escape routes peripheral to Arnold, like several of Kayla Voegerl’s team-high 11 kills. The 5-foot-5 Voegerl lured Arnold to jump before feathering a cross-court flick for a point. And Raider middle hitter Sydney Altmeyer had some success as well, like her block of Arnold to give Southridge its second point of the third set.

With the block, Altmeyer erupted, and so did the hearty student section.

“Stonewall Jackson!” the few dozen rowdies chanted between claps for each of Altmeyer’s seven kills and team-best four blocks.

The yelling, the diving, the cheering. It all equated to an atmosphere of “commotion,” as Raider senior libero Maddie Lubbehusen coined it. “People feed off the energy. The fans are yelling and screaming, so it gets us more pumped,” she said.

Lubbehusen typified the desire to change the Raiders’ course now, as she tumbled to the floor on several of her team-high 20 digs, like the head-first plunge she took to save a ball early in the second set before returning to her feet just in time to absorb and deaden a rocketed slam from Arnold.

The effort was admirable — even without knowledge of how much it must have hurt.

After walking off the court and retreating toward the locker room, Lubbehusen’s first order of business was wrapping ice around a bum shoulder Rogers believes to be a re-aggravation of an injury from two years ago. And with little down time for a girl who plays club ball as well, it’s become more a matter of coping than curing.

What does need fixing will be the sporadic sloppiness, Rogers stressed. Fourteen giveaways on serves just can’t happen. But at the same time, the second-year Raider coach doesn’t want those early-season blunders to faze her group.

“Mentally, you can see it on their faces,” she said.

It will take time, Rogers said, especially with the relative inexperience of some of the lineup. But she likes what she saw. Taylor Neukam, for instance, who didn’t see any varsity playing time as a sophomore, is becoming more comfortable on the court, and so is junior Kathryn Brewer, who dished out nine assists and a pair of aces alongside Grace Kappner (14 assists).

Every piece is important. For Southridge to rise, it’ll have to be an effort from all, Neu said.

“We just have to play off of everybody else. We build each other up,” she said. “We build off the momentum that we have and then we know that the next ball is ours. Even if we’ve gotten 15 points in a row, the next ball has to be ours.”

The opener may not have gone as hoped for the Raiders, “but they’re ready (to win),” said Rogers, whose team will host Tell City on Thursday. “They’re craving to win. I am, too. I’m just ready for it. So we’ll see what happens tomorrow and on Thursday.”

Contact Joe Jasinski




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