Young Raiders use loss as lesson for the future


M. Neukam

HUNTINGBURG — The start for Southridge’s volleyball team has been a bit slow and rough to say the least.

They started the year off by dropping their first three matches, and have been struggling to find a consistent rhythm during the ten games that followed.

Raiders coach Mande Keusch said a big part of the challenge has not only been getting the right mix and match in terms of a floor line up, but also trying to instill confidence in a young team that’s still growing.

As it turns out, Thursday evening offered another hard lesson for the team as Southridge fell to the Springs Valley Blackhawks 3-0 (25-14, 25-8, 25-20) for their third loss in the last four games.

“We started different rotations tonight to try some different things,” said Keusch. “Unfortunately we’ve had to do that quite a few times this year, and we’re still working to find the perfect combination of players. We’re having to mix in some younger players...finding everyone’s strengths and where they can help us is what we’re still looking for.”

The first game started off well enough, as Southridge (2-10, 0-1) was able to get out to a quick 3-2 lead. But the Blackhawks (11-0, 2-0), with their tall and athletic lineup, was able to quickly string a run together and give themselves a two point lead.

A push from the Raiders capped by an ace from junior Anna Altstadt tied the game at 6-6, but the Blackhawks continued to respond before going up 8-6. The pressure from the Springs Valley lineup combined with miscues and mistakes from Southridge would lead to a 17-8 down the stretch in the Blackhawks favor which secured game one.

The Raiders got off to a slow start in the second set and found themselves looking at a 10-1 hole before they knew it; the only thing that stopped the bleeding was an out of bounds play by Springs Valley that slowed their momentum. But that didn’t seem to matter much to the Blackhawks as the trio of Caitlin Reynolds, Jewel McCormick, and Sydney Tucker took turns netting kills for Springs Valley en route to a 25-8 rout.

But then in the third set the team started to settle down and looked like they had finally found a sense of cohesion that they had been lacking for most of the evening. First the team got the benefit of a Springs Valley shot attempt that backfired and resulted in their first point of the game. Then a mini eruption from Altstadt and a couple of savvy blocks at the net saw Southridge with a 6-2 advantage.

But the Blackhawks stood firm once again in the face of shifting tides and came back with their own 5-1 run to tie the game up at 7-7. The kills went back and forth between the two teams as both of them fought for control of the game, but then the Blackhawks started to pull away.

Reynolds and McCormick started to come back with their full force and had Southridge on the brink with a 21-15 score. But the Raiders kept the fight going. Altstadt and senior Amanda Brewer put forth what everything they could muster fight back to a four-point deficit, but it wasn’t enough.

Altstadt finished with five kills to lead the team and had an additional four blocks for Southridge. Senior Mady Neukam had eight digs while junior Tatiana Delgado had another seven. Neukam also had four assists along with juniors  Anna Kappner and Savanah Goeppner.

“Springs Valley is an amazing team, and we knew that going in,” said Mady Neukam. “Our first two games didn’t go very well. Our third game we started to pick it up a little bit. I think a trend this season has been starting late in games. We need to get started right away.”

Keusch also pointed to a number of other things that weren’t working very well for the Raiders that contributed to the sweep and also spoke to a lot of the issues they have been dealing with all season.

“Experience for some (players) is some of the issue, court knowledge is kind of what everyone is still developing” she said. “And confidence is one thing the whole team needs to work on. They need to start expecting to win. We’re trying to create more firepower in our front row and bigger blocks.” 

Keusch believes the team is better than their record indicates, and points to some of the losses which were decided by slim margins. She feels that the version of the team that played the third game is more in line with who the Raiders could be if they were to solve their issues on the floor. But they have to keep working at it and they will have 14 more games to figure it out, starting with Evansville Central on Sept. 4.

“We’re just going to keep chipping away at it,” said Keusch. “They need to come out believing as a team they can get it done.”

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