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RHS volleyball team pins state hopes on all 10 players

The Lady Raptors practice Tuesday afternoon for the last time before the state tourney. Photos by Jodi Rall.

11 am update: RHS wins first round, beating Karns in four: 25-19, 25-10, 19-25 and 25-21.
Lady Raptors return to Class AAA tournament today
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Coach Tracey Berry takes a unique team into Ravenwood’s return visit to the state tournament Wednesday, where the Lady Raptors face Knoxville Karns at 9 a.m. at MTSU in the first round.

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The Hutson sisters on and off the court. Click here

Berry, a multi-state champion coach at Page, says she’s never had a team before that rotated 10 players into every game. Even though RHS (45-8) boasts 6-foot-5 University of Texas commitment Madelyn Hutson, the RHS coach utilizes her full lineup.

Second-year RHS volleyball coach Tracey Berry, beside the 2009 state runner-up trophy. The Lady Raptors hope to add the 2010 state championship trophy this week.

“I really have a very, very balanced team. I’ve coached for a number of years, and there have been times where I could say yeah, I have this real good player that can carry the team,” Berry said. “Madelyn doesn’t carry the team, and it’s nice that I have so many kids that I can count on.

“What generally happens is when one of them isn’t playing well, they’re all not playing very well. They need each other so much because they are such a unit out there.”

Junior Alyssa Ivey, the first setter and server on last year’s state runner-up team, has moved into a different role as more of a passer and outside hitter, plus also plays setter.

 “She’s very quick, very athletic, gives 100 percent all the time out there on the court,” Berry said. “She's the only one who’s actually on the court all the time. I never take her out, and that’s kind of unusual to have only one girl. Usually you have four or five girls who play all the way around. … They complement each other on the court out there, they really do.”

Senior Lydia Wright is the other setter, a great server and helps provide leadership, while senior Jaime Cooper is a strong defensive player with a strong serve. Junior Stephanie Cerino is a right-side lefty hitter and great blocker, while junior Micaela Bailey is the back-row libero defensive specialist and leads the team in ace serves.

Hutson, a senior middle hitter, is also a good server who has improved in that area the most, the coach said. Jazzy Oates, another junior, is one of the team’s top blockers and has improved in hitting.

Senior defender Sarah Sutherland often plays the back row for Hutson, although Madelyn stays in for offensive purposes sometimes.

The newcomers are junior outside hitter Sara Raines, who played JV last year and swaps out with Wright, and Madelyn’s freshman sister, Kathryn, also a middle hitter who subs with Cooper.

The starting rotation depends on whether Ravenwood has the serve.

“We play a 10-kid rotation,” Berry said. “I tell them they’re all starters.”

In their first state tournament appearance last year, the Lady Raptors made it to the finals of the double-elimination event before losing to Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett.

“We were really excited,” Madelyn Hutson said. “We'd never been out of districts even before so that was a really big deal. But we were all extremely disappointed because we had worked so hard and gotten so far. It's just good to get another shot.”

The defending champions are in the same side of the bracket as RHS, and the Raptors lost to D-B (50-5) in the Mid-Tenn tournament in a close match this season. Ravenwood graduated four seniors last year, including N.C. State signee Meredith Richardson and outside hitter Allison Hargus.

“It's pretty hard to go to the state tournament the very first year and win,” Berry said. “The experience hopefully helps the girls.”

Karns and Dobyns-Bennett, however, return six and eight seniors, respectively, the RHS coach said.  The other half of the bracket includes District 11-AAA rival Independence (29-13), who is 0-6 against Ravenwood  this year. The Lady Raptors also beat Siegel earlier in the year and scrimmaged Collierville.

With a victory this morning, RHS will play the winner of Munford and D-B at 6 p.m. Wednesday.  A loss would send the Raptors into the losers’ bracket for a 3 p.m. Wednesday game against the other loser. Class AAA action moves to Siegel on Thursday and returns to MTSU for the 6 p.m. finals Friday.

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