In each of his first 10 seasons as Russell’s volleyball coach, Darrell Adkins has advanced to the district championship match. The 11th year is no different.
Russell was able to outhit a feisty Lewis County team on its way to a 3-1 (25-13, 25-19, 22-25, 25-14) 63rd District Tournament first round win on Tuesday at Raceland-Worthington High School.
Greenup County advanced past Raceland in the nightcap.
Russell and Greenup County each earn a spot in the 16th Region Tournament. The district championship is set for Thursday at 7 p.m. at Raceland.
“It’s tournament time, you just win and move on. That’s all that matters,” Adkins said. “The first game of district is always the worst game of the year. You lose it, you turn in your uniform and no one is ready to do that.”
As has been the norm for most of the season, it was Russell’s hitters that did most of the work for the Lady Devils.
Russell (25-11) had 33 total team kills while controlling the net for most of the match. Senior Sydney Watkins led the Lady Devils with 13 kills, while adding five aces.
Senior Arden Gross had nine kills and five aces, while freshman Emma Ison added nine kills, including the match-winning point.
All three front line players took advantage of their abilities, which Adkins credits as the main strength to Russell’s attack.
“If our hitters are aggressive and get up an hit, we’re hard to beat,” Adkins said. “There are a few teams that can hit with us in the region, but not that many. And that’s our strength.”
Russell won the first game easy, but then struggled to close out the second game. Down 22-12, Lewis County scored six of the next seven points before finally succumbing to Russell.
The Lady Lions defeated Russell in the third game, and surprised Russell by playing with them at the net before falling in the fourth and final game.
Lewis County (22-13) coach Nellie Book knew her team wouldn’t lie down for the defending district champions.
“My girls wanted it, they fought for it and they tried their very best,” Book said. “Russell has some amazing hitters.”
Lewis County was led by hitter Tori Liles, who was responsible for nine points, including five kills, three aces and one block.
Lewis County ended the season with the fourth-best record in the 16th Region.
Book said there is a strong chance, because of family reasons, she may not be returning next season.
“More than likely it was (my last game),” Book said. “(I told them) I’m proud of them, I never told them that enough.”
Russell’s Adkins now gets to go for his ninth district championship with the Lady Devils.
Greenup County 3
Nobody expected the result, not even Greenup County coach Lyndsey Thacker.
Greenup County defeated host team Raceland 3-0 (25-12, 25-18, 25-19).
After splitting the season series, Thacker never thought her team would come into Raceland and sweep the Lady Rams.
“I did not expect that,” Thacker said. “My girls came out and were ready to play.”
Greenup’s Kymbria Williams took over the game early, and finished the game responsible for 19 Lady Musketeers points, which also included 15 kills.
But where Williams’ presence was most felt was on defense, where the sophomore had nine blocks against the Raceland hitters.
“That’s what she does,” Thacker said. “Her position is a blocker and to own the net, and that’s what she does. She just plays her position.”
Along with Williams, Greenup County got a big game from freshman middle hitter Katlin Brown.
Brown had eight kills, two aces and three blocks while taking over the front blocking duties while Williams moved to the back line.
For Thacker, Brown has grown the entire year as some one the Lady Musketeers depend on.
Raceland (26-9) was led by Bre Grubb, who finished her varsity career winning 146 games with the Lady Rams, all with coach Jason Clark.
She finished the game with nine kills and one ace.
“What do you say, she had a magnificent career,” Clark said. “She’s had four straight 20-win seasons, she’s as an accomplished athlete as anyone at Raceland has ever been.”
Thursday’s district final is a rematch of last year’s championship. Russell won a year ago.
KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2658.