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Ruth's hot hand leads Caledonia volleyball


Adam Minichino



CALEDONIA -- Blaire Ruth picked the right time for a hot stretch. 


As a result, the Caledonia High School volleyball team will ride into the final week of the regular season with plenty of momentum. 


Ruth helped Caledonia celebrate its Senior Night in style Thursday, posting a team-high eight kills, including two in the pivotal game three, in a 3-1 victory against Aberdeen. 


Game scores were 25-14, 13-25, 26-24, 25-18. 


"It is great to win on your Senior Night," Ruth said. "It is always great to win against Aberdeen. They are a big team in our district, and it is what we have to do to get to states." 


Elisha Collins added six kills and Macy Hicks had five to help the Lady Confederates (14-11, 7-0 district) send seniors Ruth, Hicks, Marlana Dolan, Ashley Dodson, and Meagen Pratt out with a win in their final regular-season home match. 


The result wasn''t without drama. 


After both teams took turns riding the roller coaster in games one and two, Ruth came through in the clutch. Trailing 17-15 in game three, Caledonia High coach Samantha Brooks substituted Dodson and Ruth into the set. Strong serving by Dolan helped the Lady Confederates recapture the lead before Ruth missed a kill to cut Caledonia''s lead to 22-21. Three points later, Ruth looked like she was in trouble on another swing, as she appeared to be on her way down when she made contact, but she got just enough of the ball for a kill to push Caledonia to game point. 


Aberdeen (12-8) used a kill by Annalisha Harris (match-high 12) and an error by Caledonia to tie the set at 24. 


But Ruth wasn''t done. 


The senior took a back set from Dolan, off a solid pass, and delivered a kill to give Caledonia set point. Fittingly, she stepped to the service line and drove a floating serve high into the arms of an Aberdeen player for an ace to put her team up two games to one. 


"I felt I needed to step up and show leadership like a senior should," Ruth said. "I did my best, and that is how it turned out." 


Brooks said Ruth has played through hot and cold stretches this season. She experienced a cold stretch Monday in a 3-0 victory against Corinth thanks to some solid play by Cara Hopper, who played in all three games while Ruth watched from the bench. 


On Thursday, Ruth had another one of those up and down nights until she hit an uptick late in game three. Brooks feels the emergence of Hopper has helped motivate Ruth. She said Ruth and the rest of the Lady Confederates need to remember not to allow bad plays or mistakes to affect their play. 


"I feel like we''re on a roller coaster some games. Some games we''re up and some games we''re down," Brooks said. "Our ultimate goal is to win, and our focus needs to be to stay up and to keep our momentum." 


Brooks didn''t think Caledonia fully hit its stride until the final two games when its blocking started to play a bigger role against Harris and Mattie Scarbrough (11 kills). Collins, Dodson, and Sarah Freeman helped the Lady Confederates record six blocks. 


Caledonia rolled to an 18-4 lead in the final game before Aberdeen rallied. Coach Marquis Burnett, whose team lost to Caledonia 3-0 in the first regular-season match, said his team needs to win its final two district matches next week against Corinth (Monday) and Ripley (Thursday) to secure the No. 2 seed in the district tournament, which will begin next Saturday at Corinth High.  


Burnett feels the Lady Bulldogs remain a "work in progress," even though they still showed the inconsistency that has plagued them all season. 


"I keep telling the girls that our mistakes are helping the other teams beat us," Burnett said. "We''re beating ourselves. Once we cut back on our mistakes the sky is the limit." 


Brooks also feels Caledonia can play at a higher level. She said the Lady Confederates failed to put the Lady Bulldogs away too many times and that they have to stay positive -- and hot, not cold -- if they are going to reach those heights. 


"We have to stay focused and play smart," Brooks said. "We have to learn from everything we do. If you''re not learning from it you''re wasting your time." 


Ruth believes that attitude will allow her to play like a leader and will help the Lady Confederates reach their goal. 


"Our goal is to get to states," said Ruth, who also had six aces. "We believe we can do that, and we are going to do that." 





Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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