OLIVE HILL —
For as long as Rowan County volleyball coach Steve Walters could remember, he’s never had a team play in front of that type of crowd.
Rowan County defeated Greenup County 3-1 (22-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-22) in the 16th Region semifinal round at West Carter High School on Wednesday night.
The Lady Vikings will face Russell for the championship tonight at 6:30.
When he took his team to the locker room after the game, all Walters could think about was the dueling student sections and loud atmosphere of the game.
“I told them to throw the scores away, I said, ‘Wasn’t that an awesome environment?’” Walters said. “That’s the first time I can remember a 16th Region game being like that. For the guy who has been here the longest, it does my heart good to see (16th Region volleyball) finally getting some recognition.”
Both teams didn’t disappoint, with Greenup County striking first. It took the first game of the match.
Going up against Rowan County’s 6-foot middle hitter Jessica Mullins, the Lady Musketeers responded with finesse instead of striking.
Kymbria Williams led the way for Greenup County. She was responsible for six points in the first game.
Overall, Williams was responsible for 17 Greenup County points, including 11 kills and six blocks.
Rowan County’s defense seemed to take away the big Greenup County hits by the second game.
“They were able to find the open spots on our side of the floor,” said Greenup County coach Lyndsey Thacker. “They definitely made adjustments to our hitters.”
Walters said after watching Williams control the net in the first game, he knew he had to change his team’s defense to a man-up defense.
“We couldn’t stop her this time because we were, as cliche as it sounds, just trying to contain her,” Walters said.
Rowan County (32-5) took the next three games behind the tall frame of Mullins.
The senior was responsible for 15 Lady Vikings points, and ended the game with 10 kills and six blocks.
But it seemed like through the first two games, Mullins wasn’t playing like herself, at least according to Walters.
“She sometimes tries to overthink and in the first set in the half she tried to do a lot of tipping and being fine with where she puts it,” he said. “We pulled her over and said ‘Jessica, you’re going to have to beat her, you can’t finesse her.’ And I’m glad she took it to heart.”
Along with Mullins, Rowan County received a big game from junior outside hitter Faith Conn.
Conn was everywhere on the court. She ended the game with 12 kills, three blocks and one ace.
Greenup County (24-11) got another big game from freshman Kaitlin Brown, who finished with 10 kills and five blocks.
Senior setter Casey Meenach had an assist after diving into the Lady Musketeers bench.
“She didn’t want to stop,” Thacker said.
Greenup County won its first district championship this season, and graduates only three seniors.
But instead of looking to next year, Thacker wants her team to focus on this year.
“They had a phenomenal season,” Thacker said. “It’s a great season to build off of, but I want them to enjoy this season.”
Under Walters, Rowan County has never won a region title. He feels like this could be the year that the streak finally ends.
“We’ve been in the regional final more than anyone else, but we’re always a bridesmaid,” Walters said through laughter. “Being the coach of Rowan County, I have to say I think we have the advantage, but I’ve been around too long to know that anything can happen.”
East Carter 1
Russell coach Darrell Adkins had a simple philosophy during his team’s semifinal game: Hit everything.
Russell used its experienced hitters to defeat East Carter 3-1 (25-14, 25-10, 19-25, 25-15) in Wednesday’s nightcap.
Adkins’ mantra for Wednesday night came from the simple fact that he believed his team could make easy work if it hit everything.
“I don’t want to free-ball over. I don’t want to ease up, I want to hit,” Adkins said. “Just keep hitting and stay aggressive.”
Sydney Watkins led the Lady Devils with 15 kills, while fellow senior Arden Gross had nine kills and two aces.
After taking a two-game lead, Russell fell in the third game to East Carter, and started off the fourth game slow.
Russell (27-12) rebounded, though, after an Adkins timeout.
“We gave East Carter some momentum and they took it, and they won the third set and got fired up,” Adkins said. “We had to keep hitting more and being aggressive.”
Sixty-second District champion East Carter (18-17) was led by Whitney Gollihue, who had 11 kills.
For Adkins and the Lady Devils, they last took the region in 2008.
“It’s huge,” Adkins said. “Win and survive. We’ve played Rowan County four times in the championship game, so this is nothing new.” for either team.”