Nothing satisfies Karrah Batten’s fiercely competitive appetite quite like a quick set over the middle. Drilling volleyballs into gymnasium floorboards is what the Kenton Ridge High School senior does best.
“I love getting kills, love it,” said Batten, a 5-foot-9 middle hitter who plays year-round. “It’s awesome when you get that perfect set and just smash it.”
A third-year varsity player with experience and leap to spare, Batten returns to close our her prep career in style after leading the 2012 Cougars in both kills (204) and blocks (54).
She’s receiving heavy recruiting attention from NCAA Division III stronghold Bethany College in West Virginia, a program coming off a school-record 31-8 season and third-straight Eastern College Athletic Conference (South) title. The Bison have eclipsed 30 wins each of the past two seasons.
“I want to get a banner that says ‘Central Buckeye Conference Champs’ and spend the rest of my senior year standing under it,” Batten said, laughing. “(Our) softball (team) having gone to state - that’s motivated us a lot.”
Batten hones her big swing at Game Time Sports Center, where she plays club ball for the Champaign County Sharks. Named first-team All-CBC and District 9 honorable mention, she owns a 9-foot, 1-inch block touch and a standing reach of just over 7 feet.
“Karrah doesn’t accept or like losing,” said veteran Kenton Ridge coach Lori Saunders. “She’s a really quiet leader on the floor who will anchor our defense and be our go-to player on offense. She’s ready to step up and do what needs to be done.”
With fellow third-year letter-winner Taylor Brown flanking Batten at left front, the veteran Cougars are poised to make their most spirited CBC title run in years. They ran their record to 9-0 with a weekend tri-match sweep of Northmont, Greenville and Troy.
“Taylor is one of the strongest athletes in Clark County,” said Saunders, whose two KR coaching stints total 23 years. “She’s so strong it’s just incredible. If she gets that good set it’s lights out.”
The 5-9 junior owns an 87-inch standing reach and an 111-inch approach jump - heights usually reserved for six-footers.
“She has the ability to hover. I’m not kidding,” Saunders joked. “She gets up there, looks around a bit, decides where she’s going to hit it, then puts it away.”
Courtesy of a 24-inch vertical jump, Brown tallied 170 kills (and 225 digs) last season. The Dayton Juniors standout is being recruited by D-II schools, including Minot State (N.D.) and Clarion (Pa.).
“I feel like we can do it - we can win the CBC,” Brown said of the Kenton Trail Division Cougars, who last won a league title in 1992. “We feel like this is the time with all the players we have (returning).
“Not winning (league) in awhile - that just makes us even more excited to do something this year. We want to change that and turn the program around.”
Senior setter Sierra Kirk quarterbacks an explosive offense that includes senior Kaitlyn McEnaney, juniors Alexis White and Julia Littell, and sophomore Bailey Mounts.
Handling the Cougars’ blue-collar defensive duties are juniors Shauna Marshall and Andrea Heiser, and freshman Carli Runkle.
“This varsity group was in tact last year. We’re returning almost the whole team,” Saunders said, referring to last year’s 12-12 campaign. “The chemistry and experience are there. … They understand it takes a whole village to make this thing work.
“That we haven’t won (league) since ‘92 says a lot for the area and how far volleyball’s come. Everyone’s in JO now, playing year-round. We’ve got some incredible players (around town).”