Kenton Ridge volleyball coach Angie Arthur has heard her Cougars say it numerous times. Tonight, they get their wish.
“My girls always say they want to be tested and pushed. Here it is,” Arthur said of the loaded Division II regional semifinal field. “From here on out that’s all you’re going to get.”
Kenton Ridge (23-3) takes on Circleville Logan Elm (24-2) at 6 p.m. Thursday at Butler High School in Vandalia. Logan Elm enters ranked No. 4 in the final D-II state poll. No. 2 Archbishop Alter (16-3) and No. 13 Middletown Bishop Fenwick (16-8) play in the other regional semi.
The Cougars have some experience with Logan Elm from when the teams played each other at a summer camp in Mason. Though it was preseason, being familiar with their regional semifinal opponent has calmed the Cougars.
“We were right there and I think we beat them,” Arthur said. “It was during the summer and you don’t have all your personnel. But that little bit of mystery is gone. We can play with them. A big part is the nerves and believing you can do it.”
The Cougars have gotten it done this season with a strong offense. Junior Mikala Morris (285 kills, 35 blocks), senior Peyton Fleming (185 kills, 20 blocks), senior Ashley Foster (117 kills, 53 blocks) and junior Mallory Armentrout (85 kills, 38 blocks) have come up big at the net. Now the key is getting them to do it at the same time.
“Our biggest weakness is consistency. If we’re consistent and we hit the ball in the square we’re going to win,” Arthur said. “As we can keep the ball in play and be aggressive I think good things can happen.”
Junior Lexee Trainer leads the Cougars with 391 assists and has 120 digs. Freshman Bree Trainer has 140 assists and 163 digs.
Senior Dakota White has a team-high 363 digs and 379 serve receptions. She also has 42 aces. Senior Kaycee Sloan has contributed 190 serve receptions and 103 digs. Fleming also has 42 aces and 218 digs.
Kenton Ridge finished second in the Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division to Jonathan Alder, which handed the Cougars two of their three losses. The other loss came to London, which snapped KR’s streak of seven straight victories to start the season.
The tournament run has included four straight victories and all in three sets. The last was a 25-20, 25-23, 25-16 victory over Cincinnati McNicholas for KR’s first district championship since 2014.
The semifinal winners return to Butler at 2 p.m. Saturday for the regional final and a trip to the state semifinals. The Cougars have qualified for the state tournament twice, in 1992 and 1993.
“Obviously the ultimate goal is to make it to state,” Arthur said. “Our original goal was to make it past district, which has stopped us two years in a row. We did that. We know we’re going to have good teams and every match is going to be hard fought. … That’ll be my speech to them. Leave it on the court, play your heart out. If we come away with a win, great. If we don’t, hopefully it’ll be a great match for you to end your season on.”