On Tuesday night, the “R” in Rowan County stood for resilient.
The volleyball Valkyries went on the road and swept a young Russell team 25-20, 25-12, 25-21 five days after experiencing a low point.
“Thursday night at Greenup County was by far our worst game of the season,” Rowan County coach Steve Walters said of a 3-1 defeat. “We made tons, tons and tons of unforced errors.”
Despite little practice time in between, that same group bounced back with a sharp performance against Russell in a rematch of last year’s 16th Region final won by the Lady Devils.
Cutting down dramatically on mistakes, Rowan County trailed only twice and quickly overcame those deficits early in the second and third games.
“Rowan played very well,” Russell coach Darrell Adkins said. “They’ve gotten much better as the year has gone along. After losing a whole lot of seniors from last year, their girls have really stepped up and regrouped. They are probably co-favorites in the region now with Raceland.”
Rowan County handed Raceland its only 16th Region loss back on Sept. 10.
The Valkyries’ season record (18-15) may not be impressive, but that’s as much a reflection of the formidable slate of opponents that Walters put in his team’s path.
“This is by far the toughest schedule in my 20 years,” Walters said. “We’ve played seven teams in the Top 25. Our motto is that we don’t care what our record is, we want to be battle-tested. I hope the schedule is going to benefit us. We’ve only lost twice in the region.”
Certainly, Walters was happy with the way Rowan County rebounded from the Greenup County loss.
“I liked the idea that, with only a 30-minute practice Monday, our players were able to correct their mistakes by working on it themselves,” the coach said.
Rowan County has developed some experience after graduating six of its primary players from last year’s 32-win squad.
Senior Faith Conn, one of the key returners, registered nine kills with no hitting errors to help lead the way against Russell. She also accounted for three of the team’s six blocks.
“Faith kind of anchors our offense,” Walters said. “If she wasn’t so good offensively at the net, we could run her at libero. She’s that good all the way around.”
Junior Michaela McClain added six kills, while McKayla Ledford had five aces and combined with libero Peyton Bailey to lead Rowan in digs.
Walters said the team is just now getting a full complement of players back from injuries. Bailey suffered a torn MCL in the summer while competing in the Bluegrass Games and missed the first three weeks of the season.
“She’s been kind of limited since,” Walters said. “Tonight was the second time she served this season.”
Rowan County led by as many as nine points in the first game before Russell closed to within 22-20 on a string of service points from eighth-grader Mackenzie Cole. Rowan weathered the rally, however, winning the next three points.
In game two, the Valkyries outscored Russell 22-6 after spotting the Lady Devils at 4-0 lead.
Kaley Sanders served five consecutive points in the third game to put Rowan County up 10-4. Russell cut it to 15-13 before Rowan pushed the lead out to seven.
“They communicated better tonight and played more aggressive, not letting (Emma) Ison and (Sara) Hieneman dictate flow at the net,” Walters said.
It’s been an up and down season for the Lady Devils (12-14) with several sophomores, freshmen and eighth-graders in the lineup.
“Unforced errors was the story tonight,” Adkins said. “We played tentative all night. We’re young, but they are wearing varsity uniforms and have to step up and play like varsity. I told them I still believe we have a good enough team and players to win this thing (region).”
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2671.
On Tuesday night, the “R” in Rowan County stood for resilient.
- Local Sports
Panthers pound Ashland for repeat trip to Rupp (with video)
The Fleming County Panthers waited nearly an hour to ascend the ladders set up under the goals at Ellis T. Johnson Arena on Tuesday night.
To the victor belongs the spoils, which traditionally includes the nets after winning a tournament title. But Fleming County milled around on Morehead State’s floor taking pictures and soaking in the atmosphere after handling Ashland 82-59 in the 16th Region Tournament final.
Snipping the twine was almost an afterthought. In fact, except for a minute or so of celebration with their student section immediately following the final buzzer, the Panthers didn’t really even seem all that excited.
They expected to be here, and they were all business after earning back-to-back region titles and trips to Rupp Arena.
AARON SNYDER: Truth or Dare unkind to ’Cats
Ashland was left feeling like the shy kid after an intense game of Truth or Dare.
Truth: Fleming County outrebounded Ashland, 39-24, after Ashland outdueled Greenup County by 10 the night before.
'Relaxed' Steward earns MVP award
Both Fleming County coach Mark Starns and stellar senior Troy Steward attributed his significant strides this season to aggressiveness.
Playing a part, too, in Steward earning the 16th Region Tournament Most Valuable Player award was the lack of nerves, which were nearly overwhelming at times a year ago.
Central's 15th Region reign continues
Once was good.
Twice was nice.
Three was sweet for the Johnson Central Eagles.
Senior Slade McPeek scored 22 points and earned most valuable player honors Tuesday night as Johnson Central rolled past Shelby Valley, 81-56, for its third straight 15th Region championship at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
- Fleming goes for two: Panthers beat Ashland for 16th Region repeat Fleming County pulled away early and never looked back as the Panthers pounced on Ashland, winning 82-59 in the 16th Region championship game on Tuesday in Morehead. Fleming County will face Scott County in the Sweet Sixteen next Wednesday at Rupp Arena.
VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights
Fleming County defeated Lewis County, 66-58, and Ashland beat Greenup County, 81-61, on Monday night at Morehead State University to set up tonight's championship matchup. Tipoff is set for 7.
Ashland cruises past Greenup to 16th Region championship game
Tyler Stewart is known for his unrelenting hustle as one of Ashland’s glue guys.
When the senior guard can pitch in some offense too, as he did Monday in the 16th Region Tournament semifinals, that’s just one more problem for Tomcats opponents.
Stewart scored 20 points, senior Steven Friley posted a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Ashland outscored Greenup County 21-9 in the third quarter to break open what was a seven-point game at halftime and cruise past the Musketeers, 81-61.
Fleming battles back to 16th Region final
A healthy Wilder Williams this season has given Fleming County a whole new dimension.
Prior to his sophomore year, Williams sustained a football injury that resulted in three ankle surgeries and limited him to bench duty last season while the Panthers made their run to the 16th Region championship.
A physical 6-foot-3 player, Williams is making his presence felt around the basket as Fleming County looks to return to the Sweet Sixteen.
AARON SNYDER: Will the next hero be unmasked?
Who will the bat signal shine for tonight?
Or, should I say, the Cat signal?
In the third installment of a trilogy that might rival the Batman three-pack of “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” Fleming County and Ashland will battle in a matchup that has produced a classic clash in each of the last two 16th Region Tournaments.
If the first two collectively served as a gradual progressions to tonight’s scene, the climax could be off the charts.
Corey Gregg was Ashland’s superhero in 2012, when the senior confidently fired a perfect 3-point shot from the right corner. The triple thrust the Tomcats and Panthers into overtime, from which Ashland emerged 79-73 in a first-round game.
Central wins, Lawrence falls in 15th
The biggest concern for Lawrence County coach Josh Cook was staying out of foul trouble.
His team stayed in it all night, and it cost them a spot in the 15th Region title game.
Shelby Valley senior Tyler Carr led four players in double figures with 19 points as the Wildcats knocked off Lawrence County, 72-60, in the semifinals of the 15th Region Tournament at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
“This one hurts,” said Cook. “We’ll learn from this, and I have no doubt that our kids will get back here and finish the job.”
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- Panthers pound Ashland for repeat trip to Rupp (with video)