CANNONSBURG Boyd County returns four volleyball players who posted 125 kills or more in 2020, and added another heavy hitter to the mix.
It was more of the same Thursday night against Rowan County. The host Lions had four different players register multiple kills in each set of a 3-0 (25-20, 27-25, 25-21) victory at Rocky Adkins Gymnasium.
The result was four Boyd County players with six kills or more in unofficial statistics. Morgan Lewis and Audrey Biggs each claimed 10 kills, Emma Sparks notched eight and Carly Mullins came up with six.
Lewis, celebrating her senior night, recorded double-digit putdowns for the second straight outing. She came up with 11 kills, pairing with Sparks’s 12, on Tuesday night in a sweep of Montgomery County.
“You know she’s gonna be a playmaker,” Boyd County coach Katee Neltner said of Lewis. “Senior year, she’s worked hard to get in that back row, and I think she’s doing a phenomenal job back there as well.
“When you have this amount of skill, it’s hard to delineate who’s going where, but any time you put her on the court, she’s gonna make plays happen.”
Taylor Bartrum added four kills with big swings from the outside. The sophomore, the daughter of Marshall University football assistant coach Mike Bartrum, is a transfer from New Jersey who came to the Tri-State when her father joined new Thundering Herd coach Charles Huff’s staff.
“Taylor is a legit athlete, just the athleticism and the skill she brings, along with her attitude,” Neltner said. “She’s really untouchable, I would think, in this region. We have several athletes on this team, but Taylor’s gonna be a standout across the board.”
The Lions also honored seniors Hayleigh McGranahan, Layla Brown and Sophia McKay in a pregame ceremony.
The Valkyries (2-5) dropped the first set, 25-20, on Sparks’s kill and trailed by seven points on three occasions in Set 2 before rallying to take the Lions past the 25-point threshold.
Maggy Moore’s kill put Rowan County up, 24-22, and at set point. But the Valkyries committed an error to kick off a 5-1 Boyd County run to conclude the set. Lewis netted a kill and Rowan County supplied three consecutive miscues and infractions before Mullins ended the set with a kill.
Already down 1-0, letting that set slip was difficult for Rowan County, co-coach Dusty Coyle said.
“We put our heart and soul into the last part of that second set, so any time that you feel like you’re in a moment of control and maybe get a bad call — maybe — it’s disheartening,” Coyle said, referencing a point Rowan County conceded on a call that the Valkyries didn’t particularly care for. “So that definitely showed in the first part of that third set.”
Boyd County scored six straight points to begin the third set. But Rowan County posted a 5-1 run coming out of a timeout to get back in it and went on to lead Set 3, 19-18.
“We just needed to regroup, and we did,” Coyle said. “It’s not like we totally gave up. I’m proud of my team for holding to it.”
The Lions rallied once more when Biggs scored on a block and added a kill, with a couple of Rowan County miscues thrown in, to give Boyd County the lead for good.
Lewis provided a kill and an ace to create match point before a Valkyries attack error ended it.
Boyd County is 3-1 despite having won all nine sets it’s played. It also sustained a loss as the result of a COVID-19 cancellation Aug. 24 against West Carter.
Four Lions added at least two aces. Bartrum and Lewis produced three each and Brown and Sparks both had two.
Rowan County’s Bailey Brashear was held kill-less in the first set but created five in the second set and turned to a tip game in the third, scoring two points that way.
“First thing, we’ve gotta be able to get her the ball,” Coyle said. “Our passing needs improvement, so to engage a middle, you’ve gotta have passing on point, and our passing was substandard for sure, which means she didn’t get nearly as many opportunities as I want. ... For that, our defense has gotta be better.”
Sydney Hallock chipped in three aces for the Valkyries.
Boyd County won for the fifth time in the last six series meetings, but Rowan County has claimed their last three postseason encounters, including 16th Region Tournament finals in 2018 and ‘19.
Both teams played Thursday with an eye on the big picture.
“I can’t say we’re upset with what I saw tonight,” Coyle said. “We are improving greatly. We are a very inexperienced team, so we spend a lot of time learning. We are playing for the endgame, for the most part.
“Did we want to win this game? Damn straight we did,” Coyle added with a chuckle. “But at the same time, we keep everything in perspective. We want to win when it matters, and so we’ll start tomorrow and work on some of the things we struggled with.”
Added Neltner: “You can do an inventory of skill level, obviously, going into the season, and we have it, but kind of our focus is this year is to not only bring the skill but also the work ethic. The girls won comfortably, so we’ll be thankful for that, but we still need to put some work in.”
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