Wildcats stumble against Lions to start season



JASPER — It seemed to be going smoothly for the Jasper volleyball team Monday night. The crowd was behind them as they opened their season against the Loogootee Lions and their first-set win firmly entrenched them in the driver’s seat for the match.

However, whatever measure of control the Wildcats gained started to get wrestled away by the Lions in a tight second set before it seemed to unravel for the girls in the third and fourth. They tried to extend the match to a fifth set with a late rallying effort, but the Lions managed to hang on and defeat the Wildcats on Monday night 3-1 (25-21, 20-25, 11-25, 17-25).

Wildcats (0-1) coach Jennifer Hohl credited the Lions’ defense with making it a chore for Jasper to find any spots to score on their side of the net, as well as playing with a level of tenacity that the team could not match, especially in the later sets.

“It was a difficult match,” she said. “We knew Loogootee was going to come out on all cylinders. Their defense was on point and we just couldn’t respond to it.”

Loogootee (1-0) scored the first two kills to start the match, but Jasper responded with a 4-1 run as the two teams traded early blows with each other. The Lions quickly gained the upper hand after the Wildcats failed to return consecutive volleys and two swift kills from senior opposite hitter Sara Street put Loogootee up 9-6.


But the advantage would not last as the Wildcats strung together a 9-2 run to retake the advantage and give themselves some breathing room. The Lions responded by trying to reestablish their pressure, and the two teams traded kills once again going down the stretch. But a steady of senior outside hitter Reagan Egbert plus a few errors on the Lions’ part allowed the Wildcats to score the last four kills and take the first set, 25-21.

The Wildcats looked to seize the momentum of the first set and came out fast to start the second, quickly building a 4-1 lead. However, a series of unforced errors allowed the Lions to regain their footing during which time senior middle hitter Emily Wade and sophomore outside hitter Kylie VanHoy combined to spark a 7-2 run. Soon the Lions claimed a 17-12 lead which provided them enough cushion to withstand the Wildcats’ charge and hang on to tie up the match at one set apiece.

The third set is where the Lions put the pedal to the floor and never looked back. It started with an 8-0 run which was equal parts Wildcat errors and great plays from Wade along with junior outside hitters Asia Crim and Makenzie VanHoy. The Wildcats called a timeout to regroup and stifle the Lions, but it could not stem the tide. Wade, Crim, and the VanHoy sisters kept pouring on the kills at a rate that frustrated the Wildcats to the point where the four of the last five Loogootee kills came from unforced errors from Jasper.


Sensing victory within their reach the Lions shot out to a quick 5-2 lead in the fourth set behind the active hands of Wade and Kylie Van Hoy, but Jasper was able to hang in and keep it close thanks to kills from senior middle hitter Riley Merder, sophomore middle hitter Izzy Hopf, and senior right setter Laura Gobert. However, an 8-2 Lions run dug the Wildcats back into a 16-8 hole which they could not overcome. They made a valiant effort including a 6-0 run highlighted by three straight kills from Merder, but the Lions were able to settle back down and finished the final set on a 6-2 run to take the match.

Merder and Egbert led the Wildcats with eight kills each, and junior middle hitter Allison Mair finished with six. Senior setter Kate Green had 27 assists to go with three aces, and senior libero Meredith Hilgefort finished with 25 digs.

In their assessment of the aftermath the Wildcats reasoned that a combination of hero ball, frustration, and lack of communication all played a part in doing them in on Monday night. But with another game tonight against Castle they can’t afford to hang their heads and let the loss stick with them too long. It’s early yet, so in their minds the best cure for what ails them is to dust themselves off and go out and try for a different result.

“There’s no time to think about everything we did wrong and dwell on our mistakes,” said Merder. “But tomorrow I hope we communicate a lot more, that’s how we’re going to get better.”

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