Wildcat spikers take down Patriots

Photos by Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald
Jasper's Jayden Pfister hits the ball during Tuesday's volleyball game in Jasper. Jasper defeated Heritage Hills 3-1. For more photos from the match, click here.

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com 

JASPER — It’s not always about how you start, but how you finish when one faces the challenges of life. The Jasper volleyball team lived that out Tuesday when the Wildcats recovered from an early dropped set to come back and win three straight to defeat the Heritage Hills Patriots 3-1 (20-25, 25-11, 25-10, 25-21).

Wildcats coach Jennifer Hohl said the girls played like a different team as opposed to the last time they played on their home floor when they dropped their season opener to the Loogootee Lions a little more than a week ago.

She thought the players were not only sharper mentally, but were also much smoother in running the offense, which allowed them to control the pace of the match in the later sets.

“We came out with more discipline and more fire,” she said. “We executed very well. We did very well on our serve receive, so that changes the tempo of the game when you can have a good pass.”

The Wildcats and Patriots (1-4) started trading early, going back and forth in a fight toward multiple ties at the start of the set.

But after tying the game at 15, the Patriots started to get the upper hand after kills from senior middle hitter Weslie-Anne Cochren, junior outside hitter Nevah Barnett and sophomore outside hitter Shelby Skelton (along with a couple of Wildcats errors) put them ahead 22-16.

Sophomore hitters Caroline Kaiser and Izzy Hopf, along with senior outside hitter Regean Egbert, tried to fight back against the rising tide, but the Patriots overcame their push to take the first set, 25-20.

After that, Jasper (2-2) simply refused to drop another set for the rest of the night.

The Wildcats came out strong in the second set with a kill from senior middle hitter Riley Merder and an ace from junior defensive specialist Kayla Fuhs.

The Patriots used Wildcat errors and a kill from junior middle hitter Rebekah Gordon to keep pace, but kills from Kaiser and junior middle hitter Allison Mair allowed Jasper to stay one step ahead. The Wildcats then went on a 4-0 run, thanks to Merder and three straight aces from Fuhs and senior defensive specialist Meredith Hilgefort for a 10-6 lead.

Gordon and senior setter Hannah Marchland scored a pair of kills to keep the Patriots alive, but the Wildcats flipped the script and buried them under the pressure of a 9-1 run to claim a 21-10 lead.

Heritage Hill's Shelby Miller, left, blocks the ball during Tuesday's volleyball game in Jasper. Jasper defeated Heritage Hills 3-1. For more photos from the match, click here.

Gordon scored a final kill, but Mair scored the last three kills to seal the second set for the Wildcats, 25-11.

The third set is when the Wildcats really sunk their teeth into the match. Merder and Mair scored the first three kills and an ace from Fuhs put Jasper up 4-1.

The Patriots were able to get the benefit of a few out-of-bounds calls, but Mair and Egbert kept pouring it on early and often.

A 10-1 run ensued, and suddenly the Wildcats had the Patriots looking up at a 17-4 deficit.

Skelton and senior defensive specialist Maddy Detzer put a couple scores together, but the Patriots could not get into a rhythm as the Wildcats continued to pile on the kills.

Egbert, Fuhs, Mair and senior setter Kate Green combined for four of Jasper’s final six kills as they went on to win 25-10 and take a 2-1 match lead.

The final set was just a matter of inevitability after Jasper picked up the last two sets. They kept their foot on the gas as they broke out to a 6-1 lead to start the fourth set.

Skelton and Cochren made a couple plays at the net to demonstrate signs of life for the Patriots as they fought back to within an 8-7 margin of the Wildcats, and a couple of errors allowed them to tie it up at 9.

The Wildcats and Patriots then traded errors and kills as Heritage Hills hung in there to try and force a fifth set. But after another tie at 17, Jasper went on its final run to lock up the result.

Patriots errors and blocks from Hopf and Kaiser gave the Wildcats a 23-19 lead, and Hilgefort and Egbert combined to score the final two kills that claimed the third set and the match win for Jasper, 25-21.

Egbert, Merder and Kaiser each had nine kills, while Mair finished with eight. Green had 35 assists, while Fuhs and sophomore defensive specialist Jayden Pfister each had 11 digs. Hopf, Green, and Kaiser each had two blocks.

Skelton had eight kills and Gordon finished with seven. Marchand had 20 assists, and senior libero Hannah Schnuck had 15 digs.

Patriots coach Kayla White didn’t see the girls play with the energy or urgency they needed to after winning the first set. She saw individual moments of girls playing hard and fighting for points, but they weren’t able to put it all together Tuesday night.

“From Point One, it wasn’t the speed and intensity that we talked about,” White said. “We came in here lower than our [expectation], and that just showed the rest of the night. There were some good moments, but the overall team play was not quite what I wanted it to be.”

The Patriots have dropped four in a row after winning their opening match against Evansville Bosse, but White thinks they can get it together to change the trend in their next outing.

Good things happen when the players are vocal on the floor, so she wants to augment that with some more tactical know-how in order for the Patriots to control more of the match flow instead of just reacting to what their opponents do.

“I see that when we are communicating, we run a good offense,” White said. “We have a strong defense when we’re confident, so we’re going to work with that. What we need to work on is controlling our errors [and] being smart and confident with the ball. That’s our main goal, controlling our side of the net.”

As for the Wildcats this marks two wins in a row to get back to .500 after dropping their first two matches. Hohl said the coaching staff has been working with the team on strengthening its mental resolve so the Wildcats can play through the ups and downs of a volleyball match. She wants them to have better responses to bad plays and errors, which she believes will translate into positive plays on the other end and lead to more success on the court.

“One thing that we like to teach the girls is their mindset,” Hohl said. “If they’re down, they take themselves out. If they’re telling themselves negative things, it shows on the court. They’ve been focusing on that, and it shows tonight.”




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