By MATT FULTZ
For The Independent
ASHLAND Two slow starts turned into two opportunities for the Ashland VolleyCats.
Opportunities to take what they leaned in practice and apply it in a game.
The VolleyCats showed they are excellent learners Tuesday night, as they used that practice to help turn two large deficits into two comeback wins.
Ashland rallied in the second game to overcome a 10-0 Russell start and overcame a quick 4-0 run by the Lady Devils in the fifth and final game to come away with the 3-2 (26-28,25-20,25-16, 17-25, 15-7) victory at Anderson Gymnasium.
“We practice situations just like this all the time,” Ashland coach Amanda Moore said. “We go to a lot of big tournaments, so we have to get used to being down and practicing getting back up”
After a 2-2 weekend at the Paintsville Invitational, the coach gave her team a refresher course in comebacks Monday night.
“Just (Monday) in practice, I played them against the JV and we started the score at 11-0,” Moore said. “We really just worked on getting the ball back on our side and playing in our favor.”
While coaching probably had something to do with it, Moore said the team’s attitude is really what made the difference.
“Really, they just wanted it,” she said. “They wanted it bad enough, so they just kept playing.”
The ability to keep playing is something Russell’s young team hasn’t quite been able to master, according to coach Darrell Akins.
“Pressure gets to them,” he said. “They make a bad play and their heads drop, and you can see it. Then boom all of the sudden we give up seven points before we can get straightened back up.”
The Lady Devils (12-13) never could get it straightened back up in the fifth game. After the quick early start, Ashland rattled off 15 of the next 18 points including 12 straight to end the match.
Ashland (14-8) also had a rather impressive streak in the second game where they outscored Russell 14-2.
Much of the VolleyCats’ success was due to effective serves that had Russell scrambling from the start of nearly every point.
“We did not pass well,” Adkins said. “We just could not get a good pass to start our offense.”
Many of those poor pass attempts floated back to the Ashland side of the net, where more often than not, Erika Bonner made quick work of them.
“Any time that we get a free ball we try to use it,” Moore said. “And by use it, I mean use it to make a really good play. Erika and Danielle Boggs my two middle blockers both played excellent tonight.”
Bonner, a sophomore, dominated the net for much of the night and finished tied for the team high in kills with 11. Boggs did her part with six blocks.
While Bonner patrolled the middle, Megan Hensley provided the power from the outside for her 11 kills.
Sarah Hieneman led Russell with 8 kills and three blocks, unofficially.