BY MATTHEW SPARKS
FOR THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
VANCEBURG Russell volleyball has found a winning formula at just the right time.
Coach Tiffany Perry believes it’s a direct result of her team’s chemistry that has been reestablished in the postseason after a year of injury setbacks.
The Lady Devils had the right elements in place for a 3-0 (25-18, 25-8, 25-23) victory over Fleming County in the opening round of the 16th Region Tournament on Monday night at Lewis County Middle School.
With everybody back on the floor, Perry feels she has a complete team.
“We can pass the ball, set the ball and hit the ball,” Perry said. “We have talent in all of those areas. There aren’t any spots that we are lacking.
Of course, we can improve, too. We are the best that we have been all year. It’s been great to have all the girls together. They are playing like a team. The chemistry is there.” The 63rd District champions had a high energy level from the opening point, grabbing a lead to begin the first set and never relinquished it to grab a 1-0 advantage. Perry said her team entered the region tournament extremely confident after a district title.
“I tell the girls every day, it’s a mental game,” Perry said. “When you are confident in yourself, you trust your teammates. When you have all the mental components, the physical one will fall in afterwards. It’s been nice to see the girls confident coming out.”
The momentum carried over into the next game. Kayla Preston served 11 straight points to give her team a commanding lead after the score was tied at 3-3.
Preston and Grace Satterwhite each had four aces as the Lady Devils controlled the match behind the service line. “We have been focused on that from Day 1,” Perry said of her team’s serving. “That have been games that we have hit many into the net. That changes the pace of the game.
Those are easy points. We have to focus on the fundamentals. Serving can make or break the spirit and the game in general.”
Fleming County coach Nick Thrasher said slow starts have been a common theme this year, but the team has responded the challenge after falling behind.
“We have played well like that all season,” Thrasher said. “We have started several of our three-set matches down in the first set. I don’t know what it is about my crew, but that pressure brings a focus that we were certainly lacking (in the first two sets). I felt like the first was a lot of jitters, but there was zero focus in the second.”
“That doesn’t take away from Russell’s service,” he added. “They served extra tough tonight and they made very few errors. It’s tournament time and everybody should be at their best. … We changed a couple of things in the lineup. We struggled to get pressure on them. We were able to find the holes much better in the third. It was too little, too late.”
The Lady Panthers didn’t go quietly. Fleming County kept it close in the third set.
The game featured 14 ties, including 23-23 in final moments of the match. Kate Ruggles and Hannah Saunders combined for a scoring block and a final Lady Panther error allowed Russell (19-14) to move on.
“It’s really frustrating when you close them out 25-8 (in the previous set), and then come out like that,” Perry said.
“(Fleming County) didn’t give up. I told the girls that, but our girls kind of relaxed. It’s something you have to work on. You can’t give a team the set.”
Satterwhite finished with nine kills for the Lady Devils.
Saunders added four. Mackenzie Cole had 12 assists.
Erin Maher recorded four kills for Fleming County (1721). Ashley Watson dished out eight assists.