It took four years of effort, but the Ringgold Lady Tigers finally climbed back to the top of 6-AAA this past fall.
And Ricki Lynn Bickley had quite a lot to do with that.
On a team small in roster size, but big in heart and talent, Bickley was a standout for the Blue-and-White in 2017.
The senior turned in a memorable final season, earning all-area first team honors, helping capture the area championship and seeing her team advance to the Sweet 16 round in Class AAA. And today, she adds the title of Catoosa County Volleyball Player of the Year to that resume.
“We definitely worked hard and it was very beneficial year, teammate-wise,” she explained. “I love my team more than anything in the world and I think I’ve definitely reached my peak my senior year, which was great. This year was definitely everything I could have asked for.”
Bickley’s numbers jump off the page as she ended the year as the team and county leader in kills (327) and digs (369), while finishing third in the county in blocks (47). Her hitting percentage of .332 landed her in the top 30 in all of Georgia, according to stats complied by MaxPreps.
However, it was her leadership and versatility that made her even more of a valuable player, said head coach Ashley Boren.
“She’s just a great all-around player,” Boren said. “Front row or back row, we could always count on her to get the ball down. She’s a great leader on and off the court. She was a captain and definitely fulfilled her duties as captain, as well as being a great teammate. She excelled all four years on the varsity squad here at Ringgold and I think her senior year was definitely her best year.
“She was always helpful and we’re definitely going to miss her and all of our seniors next year, but Ricki definitely went out with a bang.”
Bickley said her senior season was made easier by the experience of being a veteran player on a youthful squad last year.
“We had a young team last year due to a lot of our seniors being hurt,” she explained. “I think my junior year was my step-up year and that really helped me out with this year, because I already knew how it felt. This is my first year not playing club ball and now that it’s all over, it’s really kind of heartbreaking.
“But it makes me grateful for everything that God has done in my life and all the people that I’ve been able to meet through volleyball. I have a lot of memories I’ll be able to share.”
Bickley said a couple of schools have contacted her about playing at the next level and while she said that she would be interested, she wants to make sure her education comes first.
“I want to make sure that the colleges have what I want to study because, to me, school is more about school than playing sports,” added Bickley, who wants to study either physical therapy or sonography. “I would love go play volleyball in college, but I’m accepting of it if I can’t.”
Boren, for one, hopes her now-former captain gets that opportunity.
“She’s definitely one of those players that could succeed at the next level,” Boren added. “I definitely hope she gets a chance to play in college.”
Dream Team First Team
Ricki Lynn Bickley (Ringgold, Sr.) - The Catoosa County Player of the Year led Catoosa County in kills (327) and digs (369) and was third in blocks (47), while adding 41 aces. Her .332 hitting percentage put her in the top 30 in all of Georgia.
Kali Brown (Heritage, Jr.) - A consistent performer for the Lady Generals, Brown came through with 236 kills, 195 digs, 40 aces and nine blocks.
Ashley Clinton (Heritage, Sr.) - The setter was a stablizing force for the Class AAAA Sweet 16 participants as she had 595 assists to go with 45 kills, 76 aces, 16 blocks and 114 digs.
Katie Dixon (LaFayette, Sr.) - The outside hitter closed out a stellar prep career with 232 kills, 368 digs and 56 aces in her final season for the Orange-and-Black.
Macey Gregg (LFO, Jr.) - The multi-sport athlete did it all for the Lady Warriors, recording 258 kills, 72 aces, 78 blocks, 93 digs and 80 assists.
Chloe Hall (Ringgold, Sr.) - Another key piece in the Lady Tigers’ area championship puzzle, the senior had 116 kills, 71 aces and 273 digs.
Macy Harris (Heritage, Sr.) - A powerful front line player for the Navy-and-Red, Harris threw down 209 kills, collected 149 digs and had 40 aces.
Jayda Jenkins (Ridgeland, Soph.) - Stepping into a bigger role this season, the sophomore delivered with 212 kills, 57 aces and 82 digs for the Lady Panthers.
Zoie Metcalf (Ringgold, Soph.) - It was a monster year for the second-year standout, who not only had 103 kills, 205 digs and 654 assists, but also led the state in aces (142) during the regular season.
Jillian Morgan (LaFayette, Soph.) - The Walker County Player of the Year led Walker County in aces (82), kills (375) and was second in blocks (107), while adding 109 digs. Her kills and blocks both ranked in the top 30 of the state.
Gracie O’Neal (Gordon Lee, Soph.) - The sophomore continues to prove she can do it all, racking up 201 kills, 265 digs and 56 aces, while simultaneously winning a state championship in cross country.
Emily Redden (LaFayette, Sr.) - Redden had 167 digs, 40 kills and 27 aces, while her 858 assists was tops in both counties and ranked her in the state’s top 20.
Aubree Yancey (Gordon Lee, Sr.) - An outstanding prep career for the Lady Trojans ended with 239 kills, 49 aces and 48 digs, while her 115 blocks ranked 22nd in the state.
Dream Team Second Team
Bailey Tarvin (LaFayette, Jr.)
Summer Fitzpatrick (Gordon Lee, Sr.)
Mallory Collier (Gordon Lee, Soph.)
Rachel Atchley (Ridgeland, Sr.)
Miyah Foster (LFO, Soph.)
Delaney Bridges (Gordon Lee, Jr.)
Symerel Bennett (LFO, Jr.)
Lauren Terrell (Ringgold, Sr.)
Bethany Thomason (Ringgold, Soph.)
Madison Mayberry (Gordon Lee, Soph.)
Ariana Camp (Heritage, Soph.)
Gracie Stier (LaFayette, Soph.)
Dream Team Honorable Mention
Gordon Lee: Maribeth Blaylock, Annie McDaniel
Heritage: Macie Stephens, Maggie Britton, Annie Britton, Kallie Carter
LaFayette: Sarah Ray, Darsey Shields, Blakely Lankford, Michaela Hobbs, Elaina Kirkendoll
LFO: Alesya McBurnett, Madi Graham, Jerriale Jackson, Gracen Hobbs
Oakwood Christian: Annika Green, Lily Green, Lexie Asher, Mary Ownby
Ridgeland: Sarah Williams, Abbi Witherow, Landree Dunn, Tori Elliott
Ringgold: Jasley Brooks, Emily Ridley, Jewel Parham
The Catoosa/Walker County Volleyball Dream Team is selected by Sports Editor Scott Herpst based on performances from the most recent season. Photo and text by Scott Herpst.