Derf’s debut dashing as Lady Vikes dominate Lady Dragons
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
ARGOS –- Eighteen years after she last played volleyball for Tippecanoe Valley, Ashley Derf is now the Valley volleyball coach, and her tenure started successfully with a 25-15, 25-7, 25-7 win over host Argos Saturday.
Mallory Durkes had nine kills and two blocks to lead the Lady Vikings. Senior Bree Sheetz added seven kills.
Emily McGriff had seven aces, and Macy Kirchenstien had six.
Brayden Baney had five digs.
“It feels really good,” Derf said. “We wanted to come in and get that kinda over with and then to get ready for Wawasee next week and Plymouth. So this is a very good feeling.”
Sheetz played despite an ankle injury and was seen in a walking boot after the match. Sidney Nelson is out with an injury. Derf said both Sheetz and Nelson will be six-rotation players when healthy.
Given the injuries, Derf said the coaching staff has been juggling playing time with players.
“We had a senior have an injury, so we had to take a younger player and kind of adjust with her in a position she’s not normally playing. … So we pulled Ava Smith over to play outside. Did really good in the scrimmage with it. And then Bree actually got released for us yesterday, so we were able to switch back, but we still have to be careful with what we’re doing there. And then we had another sophomore with an injury, Sidney Nelson, and she’s still out for us, and she was going to be our other outside hitter. So the theme has been ‘be adaptable,’ and we just try to make sure everybody knows what they are doing.”
With Hannah Engstrand, Valley’s all-time leader in assists, having graduated, Valley is also in search of a new setter. Derf is employing a two-setter system with senior Macy Kirchenstien and junior Abby Koch sharing the job. Both Kirchenstien and Koch played for Derf last year when she was the JV coach on Doug West’s staff.
“We’re running a 6-2 just to let them get a feel for things,” Derf said. “I feel like they work really well together, and Abby is really good on serve-receive. So it’s nice to say, Macy, you go take the first one, and Abby, you go pass.’ So that’s helping our serve-receive side. And then we do have a third setter that we’re working with, which is Avery Wagoner, who’s a freshman, and you saw her get in in the end get some touches. So touch shoes to follow with Gigi (Engstrand), but we’re getting there.
Derf – her maiden name is Ramsey and her husband Josh is also a Valley grad – graduated from Valley in 2004. Her high school coach was Jon Hutton, the current Plymouth coach who still works for the Valley schools.
“When I graduated high school, he wanted some help coaching at the middle school level, so I did that for a couple years,” Derf said. “And then stepped away and had a family and then came back with Mallory Eaton running the V2 club with her, helping her coach and do that.”
Derf returned to middle school coaching before Eaton hired her as the JV coach. Eaton stepped down after the 2019 season. Derf said she still uses Eaton, still on the Valley faculty, as a “resource.”
West replaced Eaton and kept Derf on in the JV role. When West stepped down after one season, Derf applied.
“I want this program to do really well,” Derf said. “So yeah, I stepped up, and I’m going to try to do it.”
Argos coach Ginger Moore was unavailable for comment.
The Tippecanoe Valley volleyball team began their season with a 25-15, 25-7, 25-7 win over Argos Saturday. The team has home matches against sectional rivals Wawasee and West Noble on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively, and a road match against Plymouth on Wednesday. (photo provided)