By Jan Clark
A strong and encouraging finish highlighted Richmond’s 2-2 appearance in the Kokomo girls volleyball invitational Saturday.
The Red Devils evened their record to 3-3 after losing to Jennings County 13-25, 18-25 and to Lafayette Harrison 9-25, 15-25 before defeating DeKalb 25-20, 25-22 and host Kokomo 25-16, 25-14.
“We had an early start (10 a.m. after a two-hour drive) and we weren’t prepared for that,” senior Molly Morken said.
“But the girls are starting to get the hang of things and are getting much better. Our hitters found their spots today, the setters were able to get passes and we were able to find our attackers. This invitational was good for us because we got to see some good competition.”
Once again Richmond’s front line stepped up with 64 kills on the day, led by sophomore Laurelai DePew with 14 and senior Rayonna Rogers with 12. DePew was doubly effective with four serving aces, 16 digs, two assists and six blocks. Sophomore Ashley Clark came through with eight kills and 12 digs and senior Ella Wilson with seven kills and five blocks. Morken had five aces, sophomore Kennedy McKee four with three of those in quick succession. Morken piled up 27 assists, sophomore Lauren Uhte 21.
“I would have liked to see how we would have done against the two teams we lost to had we played them later in the day,” coach Russ Uhte said.
“I think today we found something as to where we need to be going into our home game with Delta on Monday. Just all around we played much better ball this afternoon than we did in the morning. We’ve got a great front row and that was the difference between the morning and afternoon. This morning we struggled to pass. We couldn’t get anything to the front row. This afternoon we had a real focus on defensive mentality.”
A Rogers kill, a block by JaKaia Lotz and a nice net tap by Lauren Uhte highlighted Richmond in set one against Jennings County.
In set two, six Richmond kills close together by Morken, Rogers (two back to back), Clark (2) and DePew kept the Red Devils in the hunt with an 18-18 tie. Seven straight points by the Panthers ended it.
Against Harrison, the Devils trailed 6-1 and could never get into the flow. Harrison made it 14-6 and sealed it with the last five points.
In set two, DePew had a block for RHS to open play and McKee reeled off her three straight aces a bit later to tie the score. Rogers and DePew had back to back kills and DePew two straight blocks but Harrison held on.
With DeKalb the first opponent after lunch, Lotz opened with a block for Richmond but the Devils soon trailed 7-3. A DePew kill made it 7-7 and two straight Clark kills got the Devils moving.
Junior Alison Juday then put on a serving clinic with four straight points and Richmond led 18-11. Kills by Rogers and DePew followed and a Wilson block ended it.
In set two DePew, Wilson and Clark pounded out kills and McKee slipped in a neat tip at the net. Uhte and McKee serves put Richmond up 16-12 and the Devils never lost their lead.
Kokomo got off to a 5-1 start in the final match of the day but another Clark kill tied it 5-5. Three Rogers kills and one by DePew ended it.
In set two, senior J’naya Thompson launched a back row kill and two Wilson kills helped Richmond move from a 9-9 tie to win it decisively.
A tough week lies ahead for the Red Devils starting at home Monday with Delta, followed by road trips to Greenfield-Central Wednesday and Hagerstown Saturday.
“I’m not scared of the week ahead at all,” coach Uhte said. “I love these girls’ attitude, energy and desire.”
Cumulative stats — DePew 4 aces, 14 kills, 16 digs, 2 assists, 6 blocks; Rogers 12 kills, 2 digs, 3 blocks; Morken 5 aces, 6 kills, 14 digs, 27 assists; Wilson 7 kills, 5 digs, 1 assist, 5 blocks; Clark 8 kills, 12 digs, 1 assist, 1 block; Uhte 1 ace, 2 kills, 13 digs, 21 assists; McKee 4 aces, 5 kills, 6 digs; Juday 3 aces, 13 digs, 1 assist; Lotz 6 kills, 3 blocks; Thompson 3 kills, 14 digs; Weber 1 kill, 6 digs; Neeley 1 dig.