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Seniors pool together: Quartet of Volleycats lead way vs. Raceland, 3-2

ASHLAND After fending off a wave of Raceland runs, Ashland’s volleyball seniors had to improvise.

The Volleycats didn’t want to break tradition after their thrilling 3-2 (25-8, 24-26, 18-25, 25-21, 15-12) victory over the Lady Rams at Anderson Gym on Tuesday night.

Each year on Senior Night, the honorees take a ceremonial dip in the school’s adjoining swimming pool. Due to the renovation of the swimming facility, Ashland had to make one of its own the last two seasons.

Once the match concluded, the Volleycats’ four seniors — Sarah McLeod, Sydney Runyon, Leah Smith-Mensah and Sarah Rymer — jumped into a kiddie pool in the middle of the large crowd assembled outside the gym’s front door.

Coach Amanda Moore said the quartet have certainly made a splash since joining the program.

“They are definitely special to me,” Moore said. “They were in seventh grade when I started coaching in the middle school. I got the head-coaching job when they were in eighth grade. … Then I got them back in high school. They are a special group. They are hard workers.”

“Sarah McLeod has done so much for us in the back row,” she added. “She is a great leader. Sarah Rymer, Sydney and Leah have stepped up huge as well. They are great for our team because our team sometimes has a hard time mentally and those girls are solid rocks that we can lean on.”

The post-match festivities have been going on for well over a decade, according to Moore.

“We have all been playing together since seventh grade,” Rymer said. “This was really a special night. We all work hard in practice just like we work hard during games. We really wanted to play for each other tonight.”

Ashland came out and quickly took control of the opening set. The Volleycats grabbed a five-point lead and finished off the game with 10 straight points. Junior Delaney Mollett served four of her team-high 11 aces during the spurt.

Falling behind to start a set was a running theme for Raceland. The Lady Rams took the second game, 26-24, and fought back from a 7-1 deficit to win the third.

“You can’t play inconsistent and that is what I preach,” Raceland coach Sarah Linn said. “You have to play consistent the entire game and you can’t dig yourself a hole like that.”

Rymer’s scoring block gave Ashland the lead for good early in the fourth. Raceland cut the margin to three twice in final moments of the set, but this time, the Volleycats held their ground.

“We had to make smart decisions and make smart plays,” Moore said, “and not get frustrated. It’s one point at a time. We are slowly learning that. Tonight, we showed that we were ready to play.”

Rymer had five blocks to go along with her four kills. Raegan Stevens led the way with six kills. Haley Preston, Janay Farrow and Mollett each had three. Runyon finished with 10 assists.

Ashland (13-18) bolted out to a 11-1 advantage in the deciding set only to see it dwindle to 13-11. A Stevens kill sealed the match three points later.

“It’s great for our team to head towards (the) postseason with hard-fought wins,” Moore said. “That’s a positive for us.”

Added Rymer: “Raceland has always had a good volleyball program and they still do. They have a great coach and great players. But it’s our Senior Night, so we wanted to play for each other and for the seniors. A win over Raceland any time is a great win.”

Sophomore Baylee Caines spiked six kills for Raceland (17-14). Michelle Vanderhoof tallied five. Madison Whaley dished out 11 assists.

“She steps up when we really need her,” Linn said of Caines. “I feel like they all do that. Adriana (Flocker) once again, stepping back there to the line and serving five or six points in a row. They all step up when we need them to step up.”

Ashland will host Greenup County on Thursday to close out the regular season. The Lady Rams will do the same when they travel to Fairview on the same night.

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