The Ripley and Bethel volleyball squads made the trip to Felicity-Franklin High School early Saturday morning for an early season tri-match.
Ripley and Felicity got things started. The Lady Cardinals opened the first set on a 9-3 run before the Lady Jays answered to pull back within three. After another run pushed the Cardinals lead to seven, Ripley head coach Amanda Beteem called a timeout. It didn’t seem to matter, however, as Felicity finished off the set on an 11-5 run to earn the victory in the first set.
The second set will not be going on any highlight reels for the Lady Jays. Felicity started on a 16-0 run to start the set en route to a 25-5 victory. The Lady Cardinals had six aces in the set, further accentuating head coach Damon Smith’s point that the team’s serving is a strength.
“Serving is one of our better attributes,” Smith said. “They all are pretty good servers for the most part. I think Lauren Mitchell might have served 11 or 12 points in a row. They’re a good group of girls who play hard together. They try hard together.”
Ripley’s second match of the afternoon started much better. the team rallied from a late two-point deficit and won their first set of the season 25-20 over Bethel. Head coach Amanda Beteem said winning that first set could give her team a boost moving forward.
“That was awesome,” Beteem said. “I think the girls were just really pumped and that helped them play so much better the rest of the game. We’re getting there, we’re moving up. I think that’ll help them.”
The team had struggled communicating to one another at times during the season, but for the first set those struggles seemed to be a thing of the past. Players were talking and pointing to spots on the floor, helping their teammates find the correct position.
“We were really excited about that,” Beteem said. “Last practice we focused on communication. Now that our communication has improved, we’re going to work on [hitting the balls] next.”
The second set between the Lady Tigers and the Lady Jays mirrored what happened the last time these two teams met, last week in Bethel. The Tigers went on a 17-6 run midway through the match and won the set 25-15 to force a third and deciding set.
The Lady Jays led the set 13-8 at one point but Bethel battled back. The teams were tied four times in the deciding set but eventually the Lady Tigers came out on top, winning the set 25-21 and the match two sets to one.
In the third match of the day, the Lady Cardinals rolled through the Lady Tigers. The first set started with a 16-3 run for Felicity en route to a 25-10 win. The second set wasn’t much closer, as four more aces by Lady Cardinal servers paced the team to a 25-14 win and a sweep of both matches.
Smith commented on his team’s ability to adjust on the fly, something necessary to success given the amount of times the ball hit the ceiling and changed direction in the gym.
“We play better than what we appear to be on the floor because we’re more athletic,” Smith said. “Our height is a little bit of a handicap to us but they improvise and they’re able to execute when they need to.”
The first victory over Ripley was a milestone for Smith, his 200th career victory. He credited his players with helping him to reach that mark.
“Well, I didn’t really realize I was that close,” Smith said. “It’s a nice feeling, 19 years of coaching and it makes me feel good that we’ve been pretty successful. It’s all attributed to having good kids who try hard and play hard.”