RHS state champs honoredPublished 6:00am Wednesday, October 3, 2012
The 1978 Russellville High School volleyball team won the state championship that season by defeating Thompson twice in the finals of the double-elimination tournament.
34 years later, that state championship team received rings to commemorate the group’s accomplishment.
“It feels surreal; it does not feel real at all because it’s been so long,” 1978 head volleyball coach Betty Scruggs (Mitchell) said. “When we were playing you didn’t get rings. People didn’t idolize you back then like they do now.
“Title IX had just passed in 1972, and when it hit we went from playing little girls sports to playing competitively.
“I looked at these girls at the start of that season and I thought, you know, we could be state champs if we worked at it.
“I had that feeling, and they bought into the program.”
The team went 22-5 in the 1978 season, which culminated in the 15-2, 15-12 victory over Thompson.
34 years later that ‘78 team was honored at the final home match of the current Russellville High School volleyball squad.
The team was introduced by Superintendent Rex Mayfield and former superintendent Dr. Wayne Ray.
Mayfield unveiled a team picture taken of the group prior to the 1978 season. It is an enlarged image of one of the last known surviving team pictures of the group.
The framed photograph will be hung up alongside the pictures of other RHS championship teams.
“I told them if they would stay with it, stay with me and pay the price, what it’s going to take, you will reap the rewards,” Scruggs-Mitchell said. “That’s what I kept telling them, they would reap the rewards if they paid the price. I had to worry about them being a cheerleader or getting into the band, so I kept them together.
“After they bought into the program they had that vision too, and they were really good athletes to begin with.
“We had two really good teams, and games would go by and I was afraid to substitute anyone because I was afraid I’d jinx them. I was determined these girls were going to be state champs.
“Next thing you know we started playing in tournaments and winning, and we came in third in the tournament the year before, so we were just not quite there yet.
“We were hanging in there, and there was not a doubt in my mind we weren’t going to win state.”
The driving force behind the group receiving it’s long-awaited state championship rings was Judy Pounders, School Board President and former teacher at Russellville.
“At Russellville we had a state championship in basketball and three in football,” Pounders said.
“In 2006 I organized a reunion for the state champion football teams, and we got enough donations together to buy championship rings for the seniors from each of those teams.
“I believe the Booster Club got the rings for the basketball team.
“I knew the girls from the 1978 volleyball team didn’t get rings, so I took it upon myself to help them with that.
“We got enough money together (we got donations from 23 individuals and businesses) and I contacted the coach, managers and some of the players and we put this reunion together.
“I had taught at least half of those girls, and I was tickled for them when they got those rings. It was a long time coming, but it was something these girls deserved.”
Along with the small ceremony honoring the team at the last home volleyball game Monday night, the 1978 state champs will be recognized during the pre-game events held before the Cullman at Russellville football game Friday night, Oct. 5 at Tigers Stadium.