BY MATTHEW SPARKS
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
RUSSELL As a former libero, Russell coach Tiffany Perry knows defense. The Lady Devils provided her with a dazzling defensive display against visiting Ashland at Marvin Meredith Gymnasium on Thursday night.
The Volleycats held a lead in each of the three sets but Russell stood tall when it counted to win, 3-0 (25-18, 25-21, 25-21).
“Our offense tonight was nonexistent, to be honest,” Perry said. “This year, my team is not lacking in defense and I couldn’t be more grateful. I have really pushed the fact that serving and passing are the two things that make or break a volleyball match. Without passing, you can’t set up your offense. You mess your serve up, it’s a free point. It’s working for us.”
Sophomore McKenna Barfield, the sister of former player Anna Brooke Barfield, dons the same No. 2 jersey. Her presence at the net caused problems for the Ashland offense. She led the Lady Devils’ block party with six, two that resulted in points. Russell combined for 15 rejections.
At 6-foot-1, Perry said Barfield is starting to become an offensive threat as she gains more confidence.
“I told her that no one is blocking you,” Perry said.
“Just hit. She is getting out of the scared phase.
She is new to varsity. She played a little bit last year, but she is really performing well so far and I am really proud on how far she has come.”
Russell (3-0) jumped out to an early lead in the opening set before the Volleycats grabbed a five-point advantage, forcing a Lady Devils timeout.
A Rachel Saunders block and kill ignited a late surge that allowed Russell to grab the opening game.
“A lot of easy mistakes were made on our end,” Ashland coach Jessica Williams said. “We are still trying to build a good, meshing team. We let a lot of easy points get away from us.”
Williams feels her team has to find the fortitude to withstand an opponent’s rally.
“We get really down (at times),” Williams said.
“As soon as they made a comeback, mentally we just kind of collapsed. We are still trying to become mentally stronger to compete.”
On the other side of the net, Perry said her team has stepped up in big moments against Boyd County and Ashland this week. “We have girls that don’t let anything bother them,” Perry said. “It really makes a difference. Attitude is everything. Our girls are really good at putting the negative behind them. I preach that to them day in and day out. You have to play for the future.”
The second set featured five ties until Grace Satterwhite and Barfield combined for a block to give Russell a 14-13 lead.
The Lady Devils did not relinquish the advantage for the remainder of the game.
Neither team could find much breathing room in a tightly contested third set. Madeline Hill kept a key point alive for the Lady Devils with a diving effort to get the ball back over the net late in the match.
Satterwhite later punctuated the victory with a kill.
Raegan Stevens had six kills to lead Ashland (1-2).
Janay Farrow and Jaedn Stevens each contributed three. Kaylie Muzic dished out 11 assists.
“She is usually in the middle, but a lot of her kills were on the wings,” Williams said of Raegan Stevens. “She was all over the place. She had good sets from Kaylie Muzic. A lot of my hitters up front, including Janay Farrow, were on fire tonight. We have very strong hitters.”
Russell celebrated by singing its school song as they headed to the locker room. The team has developed a strong bond on and off the court.
“(Coach) Cathy Harris of East Carter always tells her girls to have fun when they play,” Perry said.
“And I thought about it.
She is a great coach and that’s good advice. She put that into perspective for me. You can’t always be serious, especially with high school girls. They have to enjoy it to perform well. That’s what I tell them do. You are here because you enjoy it. You are good at it, but you also need to enjoy it. It’s really helped our chemistry overall.”
Satterwhite collected five kills for the Lady Devils. Barfield added three.
Kate Ruggles and Sadie Hill each had two.