Kelly Ruth did many things at Elyria High, but volleyball was always her first love.
While she excelled in just about every sport she played — earning two letters in softball and three in basketball — it was volleyball where she shined brightest.
So what set volleyball apart from the others? The speed.
“You have to react quickly and think fast,” Ruth said. “And you have to really communicate well. Everything is happening fast and you have to be able to communicate and work together very well. It’s just a rush.
“I always thought it was extremely fun, to play it at a high level is something I was always really drawn to.”
It’s easy to see why she chose volleyball. All she did was win just about every major award as a senior in 2005 — district player of the year, Lorain County player of the year, Pioneer Conference player of the year and Lorain County Miss Volleyball — capping her career with first-team All-Ohio honors and a scholarship to play in Division I at Xavier.
Ruth will add another honor May 4 when she’s inducted into the Elyria Sports Hall of Fame. She’ll be joined by football standout Tony Godbolt Jr., wrestling state champion Dan Mitcheff, track state champion Tammy Derrico Porter, soccer professional Dasan Robinson and the unbeaten 1979 Elyria High football team to form the class of 2019. Jo Jo Guyeska will be honored with the Distinguished Service Award.
“It’s such an honor to be recognized and included in this year’s class,” Ruth said. “It’s definitely not something you think about growing up or when you’re playing sports in Elyria, but just the fact that I’ve got the chance to be inducted is such an unbelievable honor.”
She also found great success off the court.
“She is a delightful young lady,” said Carol Russo, Ruth’s coach at Elyria. “She fit into the prototype of excellent players who had gone before her at Elyria High School. She was very talented, but she had a great work ethic. You were not going to outwork her in the gym.
“She was a great teammate and like all Hall of Fame-caliber athletes she had the ability to make the players around her stronger and better. She was a tremendous leader and wicked smart. She took all honors and AP courses and maintained more than a 4-point GPA. Kelly was the whole package, she was more than an athlete.”
Ruth was the focal point of back-to-back regional finalist teams in 2004 and ’05. During that span, she helped guide Elyria to a 48-6 record, two district and two conference championships, but both seasons ended with losses to Toledo St. Ursula in the regional final.
She finished her career ranked 19th in Ohio history for kills (939), and her 413 kills in 2005 accounted for the 11th-best season in Ohio history. As dominant as she was offensively, Russo said her defense was just as good.
“For any kid to get to a D-I school, they have to have an all-around game,” Russo said. “Kelly was our offensive and our defensive leader. She led the team in attacks and kills, and also led the team in digs and serve receive.”
Ruth picked up right where she left off at Xavier — starting 16 games her freshman year and playing in 69 total over 23 matches. She was second on the team with six double-doubles.
She said she needed to adjust to the speed of the college game, but it didn’t take long. The next year she started in 32 of the 35 matches — earning Atlantic 10 player of the week honors twice — and was honorable mention All-Atlantic 10 after leading the team with 14 double-doubles. She ranked eighth in the league in digs (434), 10th in kills (398) and led the team in solo blocks with 12, notching 81 total. Her 434 digs ranked fourth in Xavier history at the time, but has been knocked out of the top 10.
The Musketeers reached the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history in 2007, losing to Cal Poly 30-14, 30-19, 30-25. Ruth had seven kills and three digs in the match.
Her junior and senior years were more of the same dominance, each ending with second-team All-Atlantic 10 honors. Her 27 kills against IPFW on Oct. 14, 2008, rank sixth in Xavier history for a match, her 28.5 points that same day rank eighth and her 1,429 career points are eighth. She finished with 1,251 kills and 1,198 digs — one of 12 Xavier players to record at least 1,000 of each.
As a senior, Ruth was the fourth volleyball player to be named the A-10 student athlete of the year. She was also named Xavier’s female athlete of the year. She credited her family as key influences in her athletic career. Her brother Ryan played baseball at Akron and her sister Jennifer played volleyball growing up.
She lives in the area with her husband — Terrence Mahon — and their 3-year-old daughter, Addison. They are expecting their second child.
“The people growing up through Elyria, the coaches and all the teachers I’ve had, really prepared me well for college,” Ruth said. “To finish off my career with those two awards are the things I’m most proud of.”
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- Elyria Sports Hall of Fame 2019: Tony Godbolt Jr. predicted his football success at age 10, but the Elyria Pioneer star always remained humble
- Elyria Sports Hall of Fame 2019: Dasan Robinson dominated on the soccer field in his two years at Elyria High, then took his game to the pros
- Pioneer power: Elyria High stars grab all spots in this year's Elyria Sports Hall of Fame class