BY RAY SCHAEFER
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
VANCEBURG It was kind of like taking a figurative volleyball spike squarely in the mush.
There was heavily favored and 27-4 Russell, watching 2-22 Greenup County’s take an 11-3 first set lead at Tuesday’s 63rd District Tournament at Lewis County.“We just weren’t doin’ that good,” Russell middle hitter Kate Ruggles said. “Then we just got it back together.”
Indeed, the Lady Devils woke up like they’d downed multitudinous cups of really caffeinated soda. They advanced to Thursday’s championship with their 3-0 (25-18, 25-15, 25-3) win.
Next for the Lady Devils: Lewis County for the title at 6 p.m on Thursday.
Ruggles thought the turnaround was as much psychological as physiological.
“It’s a mindset you have to have to play like that,” Ruggles said. “You have to be prepared for anything, and when you’re down, you can’t get down; you have to stay up.”
Russell’s (28-4) firstset awakening was as sudden as the Lady Musketeers’ lead, especially when Ruggles served and sophomore Grace Satterwhite was on the front line — the Lady Devils reeled off an 11-0 first-set run that included Ruggles’ two aces and Satterwhiterecorded a team-best 11 “straight-to-the-ground” kills.
“She only swung 16 times and had 11 kills,” Russell coach Tiffany Perry said of Satterwhite’s match. Perry also immediately knew what had gone awry in the first set — the cacophony of Lewis County’s smallish gym.
“That was the noise,” she said. “We’re used to playing in big gyms. The girls aren’t used to (small confines); I think it puts them on edge a lot.”
By the third set, however, it seemed “point Russell” were the only words public address announcer Jason Myers knew.
The Lady Devils scored the last 16 points.
Lewis Co. 3, Raceland 1
The Lady Lions didn’t call their gym or their fans “The Seventh Girl” — a la Texas A& M’s “12th Man” — but having a cacophonous home court didn’t hurt in the second set.
They won, 25-17, 25-15, 23-25, 2521.
“It’s one of the perks of being at home,” Lady Lions coach Whitney Willis said.
Lewis County didn’t play like Tuesday’s win was just their fifth. Not when they took an 8-3 lead in the first set. It turned out the Lady Lions (5-15-1) needed every last point because Raceland (8-18) eventually pulled to 13-all.
The Lady Lions’ second run was decisive — a 9-1 streak that included five points on Hailey Evans’s serve and two Gabby Myers kills.
After Raceland tied the second set at 8-8, there was another Lewis County runaway — an 11-2 breakout. There was a little of a lot: a couple Kelly Mc-Namara aces; Lexie Sizemore’s drop shot over the Lady Rams’front line; Sizemore’s volley to the vacant right rear corner; and Myers’ ace.
Raceland trailed by just 20-15 after a 5-0 run, but a miscommunication cost the Lady Rams dearly when two of them watched a Lewis County shot drop.
One thing didn’t help Raceland — their best setter, sophomore Madison Whaley, was injured.
“We kept up two sets with the other team,” Raceland coach Ryan Biederman said.
“We fought; that proved we could do it. We did miss Madi … but we proved we could still play as a team.”
Raceland grabbed a 10-4 lead in the third set, but it just about wasn’t enough because Lewis County eventually evened things at 23-all. A Sidney Rister block clinched the game.
The Lady Rams’ 21-20 lead in the fourth set was their last. A netted volley, a cross-court shot that went wide right and two McNamara aces sealed the win. Raceland will miss the 16th Region Tournament for the first time since 2012.