Basketball, football — alongside more recent additions with baseball, softball and soccer — have long culminated into Paducah Sun “All-Purchase” teams. These are coveted spots by local coaches and players, who understandably don’t want their hard work of season preparation and success to fade into the shadows.

As such, it was time to bring an “All-Purchase” volleyball team into the fray.

The talent level in west Kentucky, and particularly the First Region, has produced many players over the last two decades cut for the collegiate ranks ... be it junior college, all the way to Power 5 Division I programs.

An “All-Purchase” nod often signifies elite skill, as votes typically come from coaches and participating media. This first-ever team is no different.

After opening this pandemic-shortened season on a 20-game win streak all the way to the 2020 All “A” State championship, Ballard Memorial’s coach Adam Solomon and his top Lady Bomber, junior setter and outside hitter Isabella “Izzy” Myers, were fittingly named the Paducah Sun’s All-Purchase “Coach of the Year” and “Player of the Year.”

Indeed, Ballard Memorial’s season didn’t end as many in LaCenter had hoped — an incredible and intense 3-2 loss to Paducah Tilghman at Strawberry Hills Pharmacy Arena in the 2020 First Region quarterfinals stopping nearly six weeks of serious momentum.

But the beauty of the story was the journey.

“For one, we were really fortunate to have a season,” Solomon said. “We really were. And really, for us, we didn’t miss one game...in terms of cancellation. Sure, everyone’s season was abbreviated. But we missed out on camp, and it was an unorthodox year. You didn’t get to scrimmage anybody. That was obviously different. We had to practice for weeks and weeks and weeks where we couldn’t even touch a ball. You couldn’t even play. That was a different animal in and of itself.

“But the only silver lining in the back of our mind, and everyone else’s, was 1) hope, and 2) everyone else is in the same boat as us.”

The Lady Bombers finished 22-3 overall and 16-1 in First Region action, the best run in school history, and touted a regional-best .69763 RPI. The program’s losses — Presentation (.669 RPI, 25th District runner up, fell to Assumption), Caldwell County (2020 Second Region champion) and the Lady Blue Tornado (2020 First Region runner up) — came against good teams.

“I knew we would be good,” Solomon added, then hesitated. “I knew we would be better than last year. I didn’t know that we would get to a point where we were playing and playing, and man, we were still undefeated. We go all the way up to All ‘A’ state (at McBrayer Arena in Richmond) ... and to be in the finals and still hadn’t lost ... that was nowhere on my radar. It was a blessing just to get to go.”

A blessing, he said, because the Second Region’s Lady Tigers nearly stole the keys to the bus. On Oct. 2 at the Green Palace, it took two hours to determine a sub-sectional champion. Five sets later, Myers had 28 kills, 24 digs and 19 assists, Bailey Lee (another All-Purchase player) had 19 kills and 23 digs, Alyssa Dome had 15 digs, Morgan Blankenship had 26 assists and KyLee Bodell had 27 digs ... and the Lady Bombers had a 3-2 win to preserve the streak.

In total, the Lady Bombers only lost 15 sets on the season, won the Third District title for the first time since 2016, won the First Region All “A” Tournament for the first time since 2014, and made it further than any other small school has in First Region history at the All “A” state tournament.

“I think one of our biggest strength was our maturity and experience,” Solomon said. “This year’s team was comprised of almost entirely juniors and seniors. We did a good job of showing poise and focus during times of pressure and when our opponents would make runs.

“We were stronger together.”

Myers’ shines

Myers’ penchant for triple-doubles, much like she did in the 2020 All “A” sub-sectional, were less a surprise and more the norm. For the year, she averaged 4.42 kills, 3.47 assists and 3.26 digs per set — or averages of 13.26/10.41/9.78 per three sets. Russell Westbrook numbers on a volleyball court.

In her second game of the season, a 3-1 win over Marshall County, she posted 14 kills, 20 assists and 20 digs.

On Oct. 3, in a three-match sweep of Warren East, Owensboro Catholic and Todd County Central at 2020 Quad State in Paducah, she respectively went 6/9/1, 8/7/9 and 12/8/8. Not a bad afternoon worth of work.

She also delivered big performances in big moments. Against Presentation in the All “A” finale, she’d finish with 23 kills, six assists and 18 digs. In the Third District championships against Graves County, she’d counter fell All-Purchase honoree and former high school teammate Audrey Dowdy Cariveau with 12 kills, 20 assists and 13 digs.

And in the season finale against Paducah Tilghman, she led all scorers with 14 kills, 21 assists and 11 digs.

“You put her on any team in the region, and she starts for every single team in the region,” Solomon stated. “And she doesn’t come out. I think that’s a no-brainer. She makes my job easy. When I can just tell the setter, ‘Hey, give Izzy the ball,’ it makes me look like a genius.”

Competitive balance

Undoubtedly, McCracken County is — and will continue to be — the annual favorite for a First Region title. Deservedly so. Local coaches picked three Lady Mustangs — senior Jayda Harris (second), sophomore Piper Mullinax (third) and senior Patti Jo Wilson (10th) — among the region’s top 12 players, as McCracken County won its eighth-straight regional title. Critical teammates in sophomore Caroline Sivills, as well as senior Adele Mavigliano and sophomore Jenna Henshaw, were tabbed honorable mention.

But the first-ever All-Purchase volleyball team also has representation from Graves County (Cariveau), Paducah Tilghman (Emily Schumaker and Bailey Schipp), Christian Fellowship (Lillian Burnett and Emma Fletcher) and Marshall County (Halle Langhi and Clara Bradley) — in what was a competitive season from the jump.

Cariveau finished fourth in the state in kills per set (5.68) and second in total kills (466). Langhi finished 13th in kills per set, with 4.68. Myers was 14th (4.42).

Mullinax ended her first year as McCracken County’s setter 10th in the state in assists per set, behind 9.44, and was 10th in total aces (70) in 80 sets.

Paducah Tilghman’s Shumaker (167 kills, 148 digs, 35 aces) and Schipp (117 kills, 143 digs, 25 aces) were critical in the Lady Blue Tornado’s late-season storm, which included an historic set win against McCracken County and an upset of Ballard Memorial.

Not having Fletcher in a 3-2 Fourth District semifinals loss to Calloway County really hurt Christian Fellowship, but coaches didn’t forget her (162 kills, 115 digs, 25 aces), or Burnett’s (180 kills, 56 blocks, 214 digs, 32 aces), importance to this season.

2020 Paducah Sun All-Purchase Volleyball Team

1) Isabella “Izzy” Myers, S/OH, Jr., Ballard Memorial

2) Jayda Harris, OH/MB, Sr., McCracken County

3) Piper Mullinax, S, Soph., McCracken County

4) Audrey Dowdy Cariveau, OH, Jr., Graves County

5) Halle Langhi, OH, Jr., Marshall County

6) Emily Shumaker, OH, Jr., Paducah Tilghman

7) Bailey Lee, OH, Jr., Ballard Memorial

8) Lillian Burnett, OH/MB, Soph., Christian Fellowship

9) Bailey Schipp, OH, Jr., Paducah Tilghman

10) Patti Jo Wilson, L, Sr., McCracken County

11) Emma Fletcher, OH/MB, Sr., Christian Fellowship

12) Clara Bradley, S/OH, Sr., Marshall County

Honorable Mention

Caroline Sivills, Soph., McCracken County

Adison Hicks, Jr., Calloway County

Maggie Fraher, Sr., Calloway County

Lexi Roof, Jr., Paducah Tilghman

Madison Dowdy, Sr., Hickman County

Jennifer Goddard, Jr., Paducah Tilghman

Alyssa Dome, Sr., Ballard Memorial

Aubrey Wiley, Sr., Carlisle County

Erin Faulkner, Jr., Murray

Peyton Gresham, Sr., Marshall County

Drew Mullinax, Sr., McCracken County

Ally Dietsch, Soph., Carlisle County

Jenna Henshaw, Soph., McCracken County

Adele Mavigliano, Sr., McCracken County

Follow Marlowe on Twitter @dreamarlowe85, call him (270) 575-8661, or email him at emarlowe@paducahsun.com.

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