BY JAMES COLLIER
FOR THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
FLATWOODS McKenna Barfield starts every Russell volleyball set with something she calls a “Hype 5” as she runs up and down the bench cheering and high-fiving her teammates.
“Sometimes the bench gets a little boring over there, so we have to get them excited for the game,” Barfield giggled.
The Lady Devils sophomore lived up to the hype Tuesday night as Russell swept district rival Raceland, 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-20), at Marvin Meredith Gymnasium.
The tall and lanky middle hitter recorded a gamehigh 11 blocks in the match, six that fell for points, while adding three kills and an ace in relief action off the bench — not bad for a night that Russell coach Tiffany Perry saw little with which to be happy.
“I don’t know what the deal was tonight,” Perry said. “I don’t know if we are tired. I don’t know if the girls were overly confident. I just don’t know what happened tonight. We had more bad passes in these three sets than we have all season combined. It was just shocking to me.”
Regardless of the performance, Russell (9-0) erased an early 6-1 deficit in Set 1 to dispatch Raceland in straight sets. However, the Lady Devils failed to deliver the knockout punch in two of the three sets, including allowing Raceland (2-4) to use an 8-1 run in the final set to erase a six-point margin and grab a 16-15 advantage.
Russell responded to knot the set at 17-17 before closing on a 10-3 run that was capped off by Barfield’s final kill of the night.
“It was great. I love that feeling,” Barfield said of the kill. “Our team did great the whole game, so it was good to make them proud at the end.”
With the Lady Devils not displaying the energy Perry wanted to see, things often changed for the good when Barfield rotated into the contest.
“The air was stagnant out there,” she said. “McKenna was a breath of fresh air out there. She’s positive and excited and we really needed that out there tonight.”
Barfield blocked backto- back shots to set up a set-winning ace by Rachel Clark in the opening stanza and provided another big rejection in Set 2 upon entering the game. Barfield sent a bullet of a kill to the Marv floor that led to a Grace Satterwhite set-winning kill and a 20 edge.
But her best came in the final set of the match with a kill that resembled more of a slam dunk as the 6-footer towered over the net for a 6-5 lead. Barfield followed with another block for a point and closed out the contest with a kill at the net.
“I worried about her at the beginning of the year because she is new to varsity,” Perry said. “Often times they come on intimidated because they don’t know what to expect. She has done an amazing job at becoming comfortable with the game. I’m extremely impressed and she’s not even a tenth the amount intimidated as she was before.”
Sadie Hill led the Russell attack with seven kills and Satterwhite delivered six, but both connected on less than 50 percent of their swings.
“We had a lot of serves in the net and a lot of bad passes,” Perry said. “So, we couldn’t set up our offense and that’s really tough, especially on a team that hustles as much as Raceland. Every moment tonight was just not knowing what was going to happen next.”
Although Russell maintained its unblemished record this season, Perry was not interested in extending the match by any means.
“It was pretty stressful to say the least,” Perry laughed. “Honestly, I’m glad we pulled it off in three because I don’t know if I could’ve handled another one.”
Alandra Valandingham led the Lady Rams with four kills. Madyson Smith added three.
Russell travels to West Carter on Thursday night while Raceland welcomes Ashland to the Palace. Both games are scheduled for a 7 p.m. first serve.