Four middle school volleyball teams saw their seasons come to dramatic ends Thursday night at Adair County Middle School.
Adair’s seventh and eighth grade teams each escaped with hard-earned CKMSAC tournament championships over the respective squads from Russell County. Both matches went the full three games and each game went back-and-forth like two great heavyweights slugging it out. Both teams strung together impressive successions of blows, but no one laid down—whichever team appeared briefly dazed and ready to be put away inevitably stormed back to keep it competitive.
In the end, the hosts had just enough to get it done, and both teams gave the raucous crowd in attendance plenty to cheer for and little reason to sit.
“Honestly I could not be more thrilled with how the season and the tournament went,” says Adair head coach Jenna Mardis. “I could not have asked for a better team or a better group of girls.”
The younger version of the Tribe jumped dropped their first game, 21-15, but bounced back to take the second game 21-12. The third and championship-deciding game featured all the excitement that would be expected. The contest was tied at 17 before the hosts finally pulled it out.
Olivia Mantooth was named seventh grade tournament MVP for Adair.
Russell County seventh grade coach Stephanie McGowan will not let the loss dampen her enthusiasm for the year of growth her team experienced.
“They have had growth, they are a completely different team from Day 1 when we played Green County at home,” McGowan says. “Our girls are like family—the eighth grade, too. They support each other and, whether they get in the game or not, they’re all about volleyball. They love it, they have a great time, they work hard—a really, really good group of girls.”
It would have been understandable for the nightcap to come off as dull in comparison to the show put on by the seventh graders, but the older girls did not disappoint. Adair took a tight game No. 1, 21-16—after multiple lead changes and at least three wide reversals of momentum.
Russell County fought back with renewed intensity in game No. 2, dispatching Adair 21-12 and appearing to have all the momentum heading into the title-clinching third game. Instead, Adair County jumped in front 12-4 and as was the case all night, Russell trudged back. They didn’t have quite enough, however, and the Lady Indians completed the seventh and eighth grade championship sweep by a score of 21-13.
Adair County eighth grader Anslie Spoon took home tournament MVP honors, shining brightly on a team that was chalk-full of star performances.
“These girls worked so hard all season, I can’t even take any credit for it,” Mardis says of her two teams. “They put in so much work in just a couple weeks to get ready for the season. It’s been a whirlwind, but it’s been awesome—we’ve had the best time.”
The ACMS’ eighth grade team finishes the season with a 12-2 conference record; seventh grade won 11 compared to three losses. Russell County’s final season record was 11-6 in eighth grade competition and 12-5 for the seventh grade squad.
“Our girls played really hard and they’ve improved a lot from the beginning of the season to the end,” says RCMS eighth grade coach Sarah Roy. “Obviously we wanted to win, but we walked out knowing we gave our full effort and that we played hard, and that’s really all I could have asked for from the girls.”
The Lady Indians’ wins are the first Central Kentucky Middle School Athletic Conference tournament titles in the program’s five-year history. For Mardis, a first-year coach, she relishes the opportunity to continue growing the program.
“From the get-go, even in my interview to become coach, I said my goal is not to win but to build a program, to start a solid foundation,” Mardis says. “To have been able to work with this team—we literally had two practices before our first game—to work as hard as they have, to make it where we did, it means the world to me. I think that this is going to give us a lot of momentum, because we want to start a legacy here, to make Adair County the team that makes everybody else nervous.”
Select photos from the championship matches are below, and check The County Line’s Facebook page for updates with more pictures from Thursday’s action.