Without an opportunity to play in the postseason in 2017, the Lady Rams laid it all on the line during their regular season finale as they dominated the Diamond Hill-Jarvis Lady Eagles in straight sets, 25-5, 25-14 and 25-11.
The Lady Rams lost their chance at a playoff spot sometime ago but showed tremendous resiliency during the final few weeks of the season, as they battled a top-tier team in Benbrook, stayed competitive against Springtown and kept pace with district champions Kennedale.
“We had a pretty young group this year, and I think we showed our resolve as the season went on,” said Lady Rams volleyball head coach Tennessee Arey, who's squad had just two seniors this year.
Some of the Lady Rams' resolve was on display at home on Tuesday night in a three-set sweep of Diamond Hill. Looking only at the opponent in front of them, the Lady Rams were lights out thanks to the play of senior Kaylee Gregory, junior Brei Ruelas and sophomore Samantha Ashley.
Gregory had a block, three kills and three aces in the match, while Ruelas had 10 digs and a team-high 11 kills and Ashley had three kills and a team-high three blocks.
Elsewhere, junior Lauren Campbell led the Lady Rams with four aces, sophomore Kortney Rincon had a match-leading 12 digs and junior Talynn Perry finished with a team-high six assists. Perry also had seven digs and a pair of aces, while Campbell added five digs.
Other Lady Ram standouts in the DHJ win included senior Hailey Hunter with four digs, outside hitter Elizabeth Gray with five kills and two blocks, junior Stormy Lovern with three aces and Paige Riney with two aces and nine digs.
“It became clear to everyone that we didn't have a playoff spot, but we never stopped fighting,” Coach Arey said about her team's gritty play down the stretch. “We took Benbrook to five games, made 'em work for the spot they have, and that was on the back of our senior girls. These senior girls were such strong leaders and really showed the younger girls what it takes to persevere through hard times.”
Lifting up their teammates throughout the season, seniors Kaylee Gregory and Hailey Hunter will graduate from Mineral Wells High School having played for Lady Rams volleyball each of the past six seasons.
Recognizing their commitment this season and throughout their careers, both seniors were honored at center court during a Senior Night ceremony following the win over Diamond Hill.
Escorted by parents Eddi and Vicki Gregory, Kaylee Gregory has plans to attend the University of Texas at San Antonio and pursue a career in interior design. Gregory thanked her parents for their overwhelming support and her teammates for making her final season so much fun.
“I'm so thankful to have parents like you that made their best effort to make every scrimmage, game or tournament,” Gregory said. “I have so much faith in all of you…just get out there next season and give it 100 percent.”
Accompanied by her parents Melissa Hunter and Tommy Jones, senior Hailey Hunter plans to attend Weatherford College in the fall and pursue a career in occupational therapy. On Tuesday night, she expressed gratitude for her parents' overwhelming support and her teammates' lifelong friendship.
“I'm the person I am today because of y'all, and I can't thank you enough,” Hunter said. “And I couldn't ask for better teammates. I love each and every one of you.”
Headed into next year, the Lady Rams will have more experience along with a good blend of veteran players and talented underclassmen. With more than a dozen freshman on junior varsity in 2017, Coach Arey will have a deep pool of talent to pick from next season.
“We'll have the age and we'll have the youth next year,” Arey said. “We were majority freshman at both JV levels and next year should have that experience and the excitement of the youth. I'm really looking forward to the interesting mix we should have.”