BY ZACK KLEMME
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
GRAYSON East Carter volleyball coach Cathy Harris and Russell junior middle hitter Kate Ruggles saw each other Thursday night for at least the second time in six days, and will have plenty to talk about when they reconvene this weekend.
Ruggles, Harris’ niece, had four blocks and five kills Thursday. Two of those blocks came in the first set and helped Russell gain control of the net in the Lady Devils’ 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-15) win at Harold L. Holbrook Athletic Complex.
“Just wait until I see her at the family reunion on Saturday,” Harris said with a grin, adding, “I’m happy for her success.”
Grace Satterwhite added nine kills, five tips for points, three aces and a block as the Lady Devils beat the Lady Raiders for the second time in a week and remained undefeated against 16th Region competition at 13-0.
Russell enjoys the challenge of taking its perfect region record on the road — Thursday was its eighth straight match away from home, a stretch that ends next Thursday when Fleming County comes to town.
“Since we are undefeated in the region, that makes everyone want to actually beat us,” Satterwhite said, “which makes them work harder, which makes us have to elevate our level of play.”
It’s worked: Russell has only lost three games to region opponents in 13 matches and has not yet been taken to a fourth set in a best-of-five match.
Lady Devils coach Tiffany Perry is proud of that string, even if she concedes her team has grown a little road-weary.
“I know the girls are tired, but you gotta remind them why they come and why they do this,” Perry said. “They love it. You just tell them, you have to play every point, and the better you play, the sooner we’ll go home.”
Russell (15-2) trailed only briefly in the first two games Thursday, when the Lady Raiders went up 14-13 and again 15-14 in the second set. Both times, an East Carter error tied the match — the first time of the service variety — and the Lady Devils grabbed a two-sets-to-none lead on Satterwhite’s kill to conclude the second game.
The Lady Raiders (9-6) then led most of the early going in the third set. Alyssa Navarre’s block put East Carter ahead, and Lindsay Holmes served for an ace to extend the lead to two points at 11-9. Lauren Wallace’s kill reset the margin at two at 1210.
But Russell reeled off the next eight points, begun by four Satterwhite tallies sandwiched around a LadyRaiders two-hits infraction.
East Carter never got within five points again, and Satterwhite served for two aces to get Russell to the penultimate point. Sadie Hill’s kill then ended it.
Satterwhite and Ruggles provide a solid 1-2 punch to Russell’s offense that has the highest number of capable hitters it’s had during Perry’s tenure, the fifth-year coach said.
“I’ve said it many times: you can get the ball in Grace’s hands anywhere and she’ll hit it, and she hits it over and in really well,” Perry said. “Kate, she’s more of the power hitter. She’s the one that you want to get on the net, and she can do a lot on the net.”
Satterwhite was a little of everywhere on Thursday, scoring points from the service line as well as feasting from the left edge. Neither of those was her favorite,though.
“I love defense,” she said. “I love playing back row, because I like having to throw myself on the ground to get a ball. And I also like when they give me a straight free ball. That’s just so much fun.”
Russell had beaten East Carter, 2-1, in the Pop’s Chevy Summer Slam at Paintsville on Saturday. Perry said the Lady Devils had no trouble gearing up for a rematch: she called the Lady Raiders “the fastest team in our region, there is no doubt about that,” and as such, Russell ran sprints in practice Wednesday in preparation.
Hill had three kills and two aces in unofficial statistics for the Lady Devils.
Holmes, playing at less than 100 percent due to a sprain sustained Saturday, had five kills, three aces and a block, and Caitie Reed notched five aces and three kills for East Carter. Jascie Greene delivered four kills, and Wallace chipped in three.
But East Carter had trouble staying in rhythm. Seven service errors hurt that effort, as well as still working to get younger players up to varsity speed, Harris said.
“We need to come together as a team,” Harris said. “Our big thing right now is learning to talk on the floor, be supportive of each other, and it’s just hard going from where the two older girls, Caitie and Lindsay, have played with another set of girls for three years, and you know where they are on the floor and everything, to having to step up and be the complete leaders, and then girls who played some varsity and JV move up (to full-time varsity).
“Our goal is, come October, we will be ready.”
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