Wildcats sweep Raiders in volleyballSeptember 24, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER — Jasper notched a sweep of Southridge on the volleyball court on Thursday, but the longer the game went, the closer it got.
The Wildcats fired on all cylinders early, jumping out of the gate to a 7-0 lead, and prompting Southridge coach Mande Keusch to take her first of two timeouts in the opening set. The Raiders would try to close the gap around the time Jasper got to double digits, but the Wildcats showed their prowess with a 25-11 win in the opening set.
“I think playing a county rival is always a good boost and motivation for our girls,” Jasper coach Jennifer Hohl said. “But our serving has really picked up the last couple of weeks, serving aggressively definitely helps, and then just having that mindset of going into the game, and knowing that we’re going to take care of business right away.”
However, the Raiders made sure the next two sets were anything but smooth sailing for their county rivals. One thing that worked in Southridge’s favor on Thursday was that it used its front row blocking to its advantage in the second, and especially the third set, when it led for much of the way and tied the final set many times — with the blockers getting points for the Raiders.
“The first game, we didn’t do too hot a job of getting blockers on the ball, but we’ve been working on blocking a lot in practice the past couple days — when we’ve had practice, we’ve hardly had any week because we’ve played three games,” Keusch said. “But we’re trying to work a lot more on being able to block quick sets just because we don’t have a lot of that in our practices. We don’t have people to hit against us a whole bunch, besides ourselves.”
Neither one pulled away from the other much in set two, which Jasper won, 25-20, but Southridge’s 9-6 start in set three forced Hohl to take her first timeout of the night. The Raiders and Wildcats were tied numerous times throughout the third set. Jasper had challenges at times at getting the ball over the night, while Southridge had difficulties sometimes at returning Jasper’s serves.
It came right down to the wire when senior Grace Kizior, who had 19 assists, four digs and a kill and ace each, threw the Raiders off guard. Kizior looked like she was going to set the ball for a teammate, but instead she tapped the ball over the net, giving Jasper one point from the set and the sweep.
“That’s just one of her little tricks that she has,” Hohl said. “And sometimes, as a setter, you have to mix some things up and catch the other team on their toes, and she did it at the right time, and it definitely benefited us.”
Keusch called a timeout as Jasper took the 24th point. She wanted them to have a good serve-receive and run some offense. However, the Wildcats came away with a 25-23 win in the third set to complete the sweep.
“The team that showed up in the second and third game, that’s the team that I need to see all three games,” Keusch said. “It’s so important to play from well from the beginning and get that first game win, because I think sometimes that just changes the whole look and feel of the game and the momentum for your going into the second; and it’s so hard when you already know that you’re down to go in and try to keep fighting there.”
Keusch was proud, though, that the Raiders did that after a not-so-good first set. It hadn’t been an easy week for them, as they got swept Monday against Loogootee and Tuesday against North Posey before having the same fate Thursday against Jasper.
She said that the Raiders knew this week would be tough, however, and Keusch is anticipating a tough game Monday when the Raiders are expected to return to the court when they host Tecumseh.
“When all our hitters are having a strong night, then we’re pretty unstoppable,” she said. “We just got to do that more frequently.”
Jasper also hasn’t had the easiest week. The Wildcats scooped their first win in seven days on Thursday after losing, 3-0, to Floyd Central on Monday and 3-1 to Evansville Mater Dei Tuesday. Hohl said Jasper focused more on communication and having trust in one another during Wednesday’s practice.
The Wildcats have Friday in practice to get ready for the Martinsville Artesian Classic on Saturday. They’ll try to improve more on their communication and also get better on their blocking.
“I definitely think we have the ability to have a good showing in the tournament,” Hohl said. “As long as our girls go in with the confidence knowing that they can play and they can compete and win against teams from other areas, I think we should do fairly well.”
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