For The Independent
Notorious for slow starts throughout the season, Ashland volleyball coach Amanda Moore made sure to stress to her team the importance of getting off to a fast start in the opening round of the 16th Region Tournament.
The VolleyCats had no problems with the start of their match against Russell on Tuesday night. Instead, it was closing out the Lady Red Devils that proved to be the difficult part.
After winning the opening two games convincingly, Ashland dropped the third game before eking out a 27-25 victory to take the match, 3-1 (25-17, 25-18, 13-25, 27-25) at Russell High School.
The VolleyCats will play Fleming County in the semifinals tonight at 7:30 at Russell.
Fleming County advanced to the semifinals with a 3-0 win (25-15, 25-22, 25-22) over East Carter.
“All season long we have gotten off to really slow starts and had to come back,” Moore said. “Tonight we got off to such a good start that we got a little lax.”
Ashland (25-12) breezed through the opening two games, never trailing Russell, but things started to change in the third game. The Lady Red Devils were finally about to string several points together, helping give them some much needed confidence.
Russell (15-16) coach Darrell Adkins couldn’t think of one particular play that helped flip the switch, but said getting the lead for the first time was huge.
“I can’t think of one play that really changed it,” he said. “We just were able to string a couple plays together, and when we got the lead early in the third set all of the sudden I think they started believing that they could play with (Ashland).”
The confidence carried over to the fourth game, where the two battled back and forth before Ashland ultimately scored the final three points of the match.
“I never thought we would lose that game.” Adkins said. “I figured that we would find a way to win it in the end. We just had a couple plays at the end that we didn’t make.”
The VolleyCats made three outstanding plays to close out the match. Danielle Boggs staved off a potential game-winning point for Russell with a crucial kill. She then gave Ashland a one-point advantage with a block before Molly McCullough finished things off with a kill of her own.
McCullough had four total kills.
While it took a while for her team to bounce back from the lull, Moore knew they would eventually, simply because of the game’s circumstances: Win or go home.
“They had the added pressure of if they lose then they are going home,” she said. “For us it is all about the basics, just doing the simple things every single time.”
Megan Hensley led Ashland with eight kills.
Super sophomore Emma Ison led Russell with 11 kills, and was pivotal to the Lady Devil resurgence late in the game.
Adkins said his team simply did not get Ison the ball enough in the first two games.
“Bottom line is we get Emma the ball and she will score,” he said. “We just didn’t get her the ball enough in the first two games.”
Freshman Sarah Hieneman contributed seven kills and two blocks for Russell.
Fleming Co. 3,
East Carter 0
In the second match of the night, Fleming County had no plans of taking their foot off the gas after building the 2-0 lead as they cruised to the 3-0 victory.
“We really hustled all night,” Fleming County coach Angela Humphries said. “You could not ask for them to hustle any more than they did tonight. We just played well tonight and everything was clicking.”
While Fleming County (15-17) was chasing down every loose ball in sight, East Carter couldn’t seem to muster enough energy to put up a sustained fight.
“We did not play with any energy,” Lady Raiders coach Cathy Harris said. “We didn’t play like we wanted to win tonight.”
The Lady Panthers didn’t just dominate the hustle plays, they dominated the net as well thanks, in large part, to Samantha Humphries, who finished with 10 kills and six blocks.
“I thought we dominated the net,” Humphries said. “When (Samantha) is aggressive at the net it intimidates the other team and they start to shy away from the net.”
Whitney Gollihue led East Carter with 10 kills on the night.
East Carter finished the season with a 14-13 record.