Letting one get away against Rowan County had haunted Raceland since Sept. 10.
Aside from that hiccup, the Lady Rams have been scary good inside the 16th Region.
Now, on Oct. 31, they’re playing for the title following a 3-0 win (25-18, 25-18, 25-19) over Rowan County on Wednesday at Russell High School.
“Tomorrow’s Halloween, so the orange-and-black team’s got to be there,” said Raceland coach Jason Clark as he glanced at the scoreboard between semifinal matches. “We’ve got 24 minutes and 22 seconds to enjoy this and then we’ve got to start focusing on who wins this match.”
Raceland meets Ashland tonight at 7 at Russell for the championship. The Lady Rams are winners of 21 straight. They’re 24-1 against region opponents.
Rowan County (22-16) bounced back from a 2-0 hole seven weeks ago to hand Raceland that lone region loss.
The pre-match message was to remember that day.
“We talked all week about the (tournament) draw and to remember Sept. 10,” Clark said. “Giving that one away probably helped us tonight. It kept us focused, kept us energized.”
Raceland (34-4) dominated the Valkyries from the get-go, with a 25-18 win in Game 1.
The Lady Rams followed that up with a 10-0 spurt to open the second game. Savannah Mackie served for all 10 points.
“That was huge,” Clark said. “When Savannah Mackie goes back and serves, we’ve been pretty good with that rotation. Her serves are key for our team. We have to make sure we finish plays when she’s back there.”
Kymbria Williams, the region’s reigning top player, found her rhythm at the net in the third game. During one particular stint, Williams’ hard-striking spikes accounted for three kills as Raceland distanced itself from a tight contest.
Freshman libero Leigh Grubb then racked up three of her five Game 3 aces with perfectly placed serves inside the lines forming the right back corner.
“For a freshman to serve like that tonight on the biggest stage she’s ever played in, that’s an unbelievable effort by Leigh Grubb,” Clark said. “She was unbelievable controlling that back row.”
Together, Williams and Grubb helped Raceland roll off 11 consecutive points to take a commanding 18-7 lead in Game 3.
“We have a great, wonderful team,” Williams said. “I would not trade them for anything. Everybody at Raceland is a family. That’s what we say in our breakdown — 1, 2, 3, family — because we come together and play as a team.”
When Rowan County charged back behind the solid play of Faith Conn, Megan Armstrong and Abby Hammond, the Lady Rams remained composed, said senior Abby Brogan.
“We stayed calm,” Brogan said. “We know if we go out there and play our game, we’ll win.”
Brogan halted the Valkyries’ 7-0 run with an authoritative kill shot to give Raceland a 24-19 advantage. The Lady Rams scored the very next point to cap the win, handing Rowan County its first 3-0 loss in the region.
“I’ve played volleyball for seven years and this is the most fun I’ve had,” Brogan said.
Brogan had eight kills, while MaKenzi Speaks added six. Williams led the team with 14 kills and three blocks.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.