Lady Devils heat up Ashland
BY JAMES COLLIER
Reprinted with permission from the editor of THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
RUSSELL If Tiffany Perry were to channel her inner Lou Brown from the 1989 hit Major League, the message to her team was very clear.
Give ‘em the heater!
That was exactly what Russell did Thursday night as it entertained Ashland at the “Marv” in a dominating 3-0 (25-9, 25-20, 25-7) win.
“It’s great and to compete with a team as good as Ashland is. It’s really rewarding to see hard work pay off,” Perry said.
If comparing players from the Lady Devils to a character from the movie, McKenna Barfield’s role would be an easy choice.
However, unlike Vaughn who hit anything and everything by chance, Barfield hit anything and everything she swung at and no one was safe from her swing.
The senior slammed the ball to the court as Ashland defenders could only hope to get a piece of the ball before it found hardwood. But more times than not, that was not the case. Barfield sent several balls caroming off the court and into the stage area with a pair of serves ricocheting off an Ashland player and into the fans sitting courtside.
“It’s not even the volleyball intelligence for McKenna, it’s the athleticism and just the skill that she has,” Perry said.
But her biggest swing of the night came amidst a 13-0 run in the final set to close out the match when she saw an opening in the back corner and drove the ball forcefully off the court. And the official standing in the corner.
“Sometimes you have to remind them to hit hard and when you get that perfect set, it’s time,” Perry said.
Barfield’s teammates believed it was time as well.
Mallory Allen backed up Barfield’s game-high nine kills with eight of her own, including a pair of kills to set up set point in the opening two frames. Allen sparked the Lady Devils’ final run with a spike at the net on a ball that had bounced back her after an attempt kill. The second opportunity was driven with power with no hopes of a return. But the junior saved her best for last, earning the game-winning kill to close out the sweep.
“I was extremely pleased with Mallory’s presence at the net tonight,” Perry said. “I think especially just the force behind the hits was the most impressive thing for me.”
Christin Corey provided a spark of her own, delivering six kills and five aces.
Russell followed the lead of senior Sadie Hill, who provided a little
bit of everything in the match including a display of a superpower even her coach took notice of.
“I think she has eyes in the back of head sometimes,” Perry joked. “Sadie put up a great effort tonight and I was really impressed with her. Just her quickness and ability to know where the ball was going. She really performed well tonight.”
Barfield admits her job is easy when everyone knows exactly what the other is thinking.
“When your team can see it, it’s so fun,” Barfield said. “Sadie does a good job of saying you have one blocker and your hole is here. So, when you get up there, you can see it a lot better.”
Ashland stumbled mightily in Set 1 after volleying for the lead to open the match. A 6-0 run by Russell pushed the set out of reach while forcing the Volleycats to scramble. Set 2 looked to be another runaway by the Lady Devils after opening with a 6-0 lead and leading by seven early on. Ashland found a late spark bookended by a pair of Bethany Ledford kills to pull to within two, 20-18. However, they would get no closer the rest of the match.
“It’s hard to get over the hump when you keep making silly mistakes,” Ashland coach Sarah Linn said. “When you are hitting balls in the net or hitting balls to the back wall, we just have to get over stupid mistakes. Once you dig yourself a hole you can’t dig yourself out of it.”
Russell runs its winning streak to seven straight, has not lost a set since Sept. 28 against East Carter and has recorded nine shutouts this season.