BY RAY SCHAEFER
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
VANCEBURG “Swing harder!,” Tiffany Perry screamed.
Perry’s Russell Lady Devils listened — all the way to Thursday’s 63rd District volleyball tournament championship at Lewis County High School. They defended their title by knocking off the host Lady Lions, 3-0 (258, 25-18, 25-12).
Russell thus subjugated, suppressed and subdued the rest of the district in just about any way you can name.
The Lady Devils were 8-0 against Raceland, Greenup County and Lewis County. All those wins were 3-0 shutouts, and their 29-4 record more than doubled the others' combined 14 wins and equaled the 29-10 mark Perry piloted in 2015.
“I have full faith in my team, I have full faith in this team,” Perry said. “They are great girls, and I know that they're getting mentally stronger with each game.”
Russell junior middle hitter Rachel Saunders doesn't often lead the kills count, but Thursday's 11 was the team-high.
“Usually Grace Satterwhite leads us in kills, but I usually have a fair amount of kills each game,” Saunders said.
After Russell knocked off Greenup County in Tuesday's first round, one of the first things Perry did was crank up the music — about 100 decibels loud — to counteract Lewis County’s cozy, noisy confines.
“We were going to practice in a loud gym, and that’s exactly what we did (Wednesday),” Perry said. “We made sure we found a way to communicate without being able to hear each other.”
The Lady Devils led the first set, 9-4, when Perry yelled at her team to unyieldingly hit the ball, and seconds later, they did. Sophomore middle hitter McKenna Barfield’s “knock to the ground” kill started her team on a 16-4 run.
“I felt that they were taking it kinda easy up there,” Perry said. “Our offense is the strongest part of the Russell team.”
Barfield offered a mea culpa.
“We don’t mean to take it easy, but sometimes it does happen, and we need a bit of encouragement to hit as hard as we can,” she said.
For a few seconds between the first and second sets, Barfield and Satterwhite performed a cross between a Texas Two-Step and an Irish jig you might see in “Riverdance.”
“We were just doing the Cupid Shuffle,” Barfield said. “It's like a dance; we walk on the net dancing.”
For a while in the second set, Lewis County (5-16-1) might’ve made you think of The Who’s 1981 song “Another Tricky Day” because the Lady Lions led, 9-6. But a lyric Pete Townshend sang — “patience is priceless” — proved pertinent because kills from Sadie Hill and Kate Ruggles put Russell ahead to stay, 13-11.
“I think we got on a run there,” Lewis County coach Whitney Willis said. “When we make a good play, I think you can see it in our faces and the way we continued to play, so I was encouraged by that and very hopeful.”
The Lady Lions stuck around early in the third set at 3-3. Then a reprise of the first — a 15-6 run.
Both teams advance to regional play next week.