Rams drop chippy home opener to Russell County

Published 10:22 pm Thursday, September 7, 2023

Valley faced off against Russell County in the Rams’ home opener on Thursday. The match continued the tough slide that the team has been on to start the season. 

Russell County won the match in four sets. Valley won the third set 25-23, but the Warriors won the first set 25-13, the second 25-22 and the third set 25-13. 

The loss dropped Valley to 1-6 on the season. Even in defeat, Head Coach Madyson Messer saw several positive signs from her team. 

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“I thought we played pretty well,” Messer said. “We always start the games really well and we kind of dominate the first half of games, and then we usually kind of start dwindling down. We need to get to where we’re playing full games where we’re up like that. I’m pleased with what my players did today. They fought to the very end.” 

Valley got some leadership from its three seniors on Thursday. Nevaeh Crane, Jada Russell and Kasandra Gonzalez all stepped up at different times. Crane had five kills, an ace and two blocks in just the last two sets. 

Crane did her best work as a server.

“Nevaeh went on a few runs with her serves,” Messer said. “She did great, I’m really proud of her. She had some really good blocks today. Jada is setting well for us. Cassandra is doing her part. They’re all doing well leading the team.” 

Valley and Russell County are not necessarily considered rivals, but you would not know that based off of the match on Thursday. 

Controversial calls and chirping between the teams led to some heated moments during and after the match. 

Messer did not take offense to the talking that was going on during the match, but she did not appreciate the things that were said to her players. 

“They can talk all they want, but when they start talking to my players that way…,” Messer said. “I’ll defend them no matter what. I didn’t really appreciate that, but it’s a game, it happens. Everybody’s competitive.” 

Valley started off several of the sets well, finishing the sets was a different story. The Rams led in each of the first three sets and still lost two of the sets. Messer believes some of those issues are due to the youth of the team. 

“We start off on top, we’ve got to stay there,” Messer said. “We start falling midway through the set. We’ve got to play every serve like we’re down. We’re young and they’ve got to learn from that, but they also had some good servers coming up about halfway through their lineup. We couldn’t defend some of their serves.” 

After Valley won the third set, there was a lot of excitement on the court. That excitement was quickly halted as the Warriors were up to serve for the majority of the fourth set. 

The team’s serving has improved from where it was in their first few games, but Messer thinks there is still work to be done. 

“We had some good servers today, but we also need to get to where we’re serving a little more consistently all the way through the lineup,” Messer said. “Not just three or four of us, it needs to be all six.” 

Up next for Valley is a matchup against Handley and Reeltown on Sept. 12 as the Rams host the two for a tri-match.