By Jan Clark
Playing the No. 1 team in the state, the Richmond girls volleyball team saw its season come to an end Thursday at the hands of the New Castle Trojans in the New Castle Sectional 9-25, 10-25, 9-25. The Devils finished 14-15 on the season.
Richmond had no answer for New Castle junior sensation Mabrey Shaffmaster, who was credited with 18 kills and numerous high octane service aces. This sets up a clash of No. 1 vs No. 2 at noon Saturday when New Castle meets rival Yorktown. Both are defending state champions.
“I actually think we had a lot of high points tonight,” said Richmond coach Russ Uhte. “We knew coming in that this was probably going to be our toughest match all year. New Castle is ranked second in the nation and I told the girls that we have to play as well as we can and just leave it all on the court. It was the last night for our seniors and I wanted them to enjoy the experience.”
The first three points of the night were all kills by Shaffmaster, who set a state finals record for kills last November. Red Devil highlights in set one were kills by Kennedy McKee, Ashley Clark and Laurelai DePew and a service ace by Alison Juday. In set two, New Castle jumped to a 10-1 lead before DePew had back-to-back blocks for Richmond. In set three Ella Wilson and Ray Rogers had kills along with an ace by Rogers.
McKee led the team in kills with three, DePew in blocks with two, J’naya Thompson in digs with six and Lauren Uhte in assists with five. Rogers and Juday had the only aces.
Thompson was taken to Reid Health by ambulance after being hit flush in the face by a Shaffmaster kill near the end of set three.
Looking ahead to next year, coach Uhte sees an experienced group returning. “We certainly encourage the returning players to continue to play club ball during the off season,” he said. “We knew this year we had a young team but we don’t have that excuse next year. We have to come out, compete and perform. We’re not a young team anymore and I’m not a first-year coach anymore.”
Stats — Rogers 1 ace, 2 kills, 2 digs; Morken 2 digs, 2 assists; Wilson 1 kill, 2 digs, 1 assist; Thompson 6 digs; Juday 1 ace; McKee 3 kills, 2 digs; DePew 2 kills, 5 digs, 2 blocks; Uhte 2 digs, 5 assists; Clark 1 kill; Lotz 2 digs.