CORBIN — First-year coach Vanessa Ross and her Corbin Lady Redhound volleyball team are ready to make a run beginning today when they compete in the KHSAA Volleyball State Tournament for the third consecutive year.
The Lady Redhounds (25-8) are looking to capture the program’s first state championship and their first obstacle will be 16th Region champion Rowan County (30-9). The two teams are set to do battle tonight at 8 p.m.
Corbin began its quest for a third straight trip to Louisville with a lot of uncertainties after graduating five seniors from last season’s 32-win squad while also having Ross come in as a first-year coach.
But Ross and her players cleared each obstacle they faced throughout the season.
“Being a first-year coach and coming into a program that has been so successful, there was of course pressure,” Ross admitted. “We had also lost five seniors, so I knew coming in that I was going to have to build a team that had never played together before. When we met as a team for the first time on a court, I told the girls that everyone around here is doubting you, no one thinks that you will go back to state this year. All season I have reminded them of that. I told them that no one is going to hand it to you, that if you want to go you will have to earn every point to get there. The girls have carried that chip on their shoulder to prove people wrong and they did just that.
“From the beginning, I saw a good team that was young,” she added. “We make mistakes just like any other team. What made me realize that we had every opportunity to return to state is all the tournament play we did at the beginning of the year. We may not have had the best record at some tournaments but we played very tough teams and we hung right in there with them. The girls never just laid down because they had 4 6'2 girls and we have zero. They were always up for a challenge.”
Corbin began the season with a 3-3 mark before catching fire and going 22-5 heading into today’s matchup with Rowan County.
The Lady Redhounds dominated regional and district play, going 17-0 against region opponents while posting an unblemished 10-0 mark against district teams.
“We were undefeated in district and region season play — that is huge,” Ross said. “I think that any coach is nervous at the beginning of the season on how their team is going to look. My girls came out and surprised me, from the first scrimmage in Bluegrass Games, I saw a good team. We are very young, which is a positive for the future of this program.”
Corbin is looking to erase last season’s memory of losing in straight sets to McCracken County.
The Lady Redhounds didn’t play Rowan County during the regular season but did manage to play a close match with the Lady Vikings during the preseason.
“We discussed what they felt happened when they went to state last year,” Ross said. “They said they just laid a big egg. Once they were on the court, they let their nerves get to them. We have been in nervous situations before, for example, playing South Laurel for the fourth time in a season, and the fourth time being the biggest game yet. We are entering the tournament with an any team can be beat demeanor, including ourselves.
”Our team strength is our mindset,” she added. “We have had the State Tournament on our mind since March of last year. Everything that we have completed during the season has only prepared us for that. Another strength is that our girls are truly a team, most coaches can't say that especially when you are dealing with high school girls. They leave everything outside the gym doors. When they step on the court, they know that it’s game time. They treat each other how they should be treated. We know that any team can be beaten, we need to focus and do what we need to do on our side of the floor.”