All Hallows Eve wasn’t about the candy for Rowan County Volleyball players.
Rather than flocking to the streets in search of sweets, the members of the Rowan County volleyball team took to the court dressed as Valkyries for what could have been their last game of the season.
However, this group of determined young ladies weren’t going to accept a loss on their home court. Their focus was set on remaining the 16th Region champions for the third straight season, and with a 3-1 victory over the Boyd County Lady Lions, they remain the reigning champions.
“I still almost don’t believe this one,” said co-head coach of the Valkyries Dusty Coyle.
“The other ones I knew we had a really good chance. This year their were quality teams all throughout the tournament. Every single team had the play that could take the title. We have not had that in recent years. It has always been here are your two or three really good teams. This one you had to battle through everything. The region is just getting much, much better. So for us to still be standing at the end speaks more for this title than the previous ones did. I have nothing but awe for this team.”
The Valkyries took charge in the first set. They were amped up after Wednesday night’s fifth set victory over Russell. They climbed to a 15-4 lead with Madison Roar taking over the serve 6-4. Roar served one aced and assisted five kills during the Valkyries nine point run.
The Lady Lions battled their way back within striking distance. They knotted the score 22-22, but were unable to take the lead. Two errors by the Lady Lions and a kill by senior outside hitter Jocelyn Goldy kept the Valkyries on top.
The Valkyries exhaustion set in during the second set. The Valkyries got caught behind early and trailed for almost the entirety of the second set aside from the score having been tied at two.
Blocks and block coverage played a key role in the third and fourth sets. Unable to get an effective block during the remaining sets, the Lady Lions were scrambling.
“Blocks were definitely the name of the game tonight. They were effectively blocking our balls and we were able to cover it. We were able to block them and they had excellent ball coverage as well. Once they realized where our big blocks were up there, they were maneuvering the ball around it. We were making them make adjustments which says something, but they were still making really good attacks. That pressured us more than I would have cared for, but we responded well,” said Coyle.
The Valkyries defense, led by senior libero Christina Grimes, worked extra hard to pull out the win. Grimes saved the Valkyries on several occasions. She even slipped a foot under one of the Boyd County hits. Her save allowed the Valkyries to tie the score 6-6 in the fourth set and take the lead that eventually led the Valkyries to victory.
“With the big blockers we have and the confidence we have in our blockers, we as defense have to help them anyway we can. We know that sometimes even if they get a good touch it may fall down. That is not always a bad thing,” said Grimes. “Tonight with the foot, it was just instinct. I do it all the time in practice. Tonight it actually worked.”
On top of covering the block, the Valkyries put up a wall of their own. They had four blocks in the third set. Bailey Brashear had two solo blocks. Kylie Breeze and Riley Hall worked as a team to block two hits as well.
Heather Fannin delivered an ace to end the third set 25-23. Her ace boosted the Valkyries spirits and sent them speeding to victory during the final set.
“It was a really intense moment. It was 24-23. We were neck and neck. I went back there to serve and I realized it was this big moment. I was excited, but I just had to center myself. I just want to keep our momentum,” said Fannin. “ And that feeling of relief when I hit that serve. It was a big sigh. We really fought for that set. It let off a relief but we knew we were going to kick it into another gear for that last set.”
Brashear had the first kill of the fourth set. She took the 1-0 early lead. She had four kills in the fourth set alone.
The Valkyries relinquished the lead only once before claiming victory 25-15.
“I don’t think our experience showed, at least in the first two sets. Both teams came out very nervous. They were kind of young enough that it didn’t register quite yet, but it showed in the fourth set. They were put to it. They were put down. They realized if they didn’t win this set they were going home. That is when you saw them really affected by that pressure. We just kept pushing. We have done this. We have done thousands of reps. It’s time to do what you do on a regular basis. Play with heart And it worked,” said Coyle.
The Valkyries return to action this Friday at Valley High School. They take on the winners of the 13th Region, Corbin, at 8 p.m.