Bracken battles off St. Patrick in season opener

If Tuesday’s volleyball season opener between Bracken County and Saint Patrick is any indicator, volleyball fans are in for a treat come October when the 39th District Tournament rolls around.

The two kicked off the season with a highly competitive match that ended up going the three-time defending district champs way, as the Lady Bears knocked off the Lady Saints, 2-1 (26-28, 25-20, 25-23).

“I told you preseason this district is wide-open. There’s four teams that can win this district. Every time we play a district opponent there’s a target on our back and we know that,” Lady Bears coach Wade Smith said.

While the Lady Bears showed off their championship pedigree within the district on Tuesday evening in the Shamrock, the Lady Saints showed they’ll be no push-over this season. A nearly full roster returning paired with some up and coming talent showed that they’ll be much improved from the 14-19 team a season ago.

“We played better than what I thought we would tonight,” Lady Saints assistant coach Angie Brant said, who was filling in as head coach Chuck Hamilton couldn’t make the match due to an injury. “The intensity was really good, we served well and had some good hits, just had some breakdowns at the wrong time of the game and that’s what cost us.”

St. Patrick took the first set after battling off four Bracken set points at 24-21, 24-22, 24-23 and 26-25, before closing out the first set with three straight points to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three match.

They’d carry the momentum in the second set jumping out to an 8-3 advantage as Justina Klee proved to be a force as a middle hitter, racking up three of her eight kills on the evening in the sequence.

But some youthful mistakes and the Lady Bears getting increased efforts from their upperclassmen quickly gave Bracken the lead back as they went on a 7-0 run to take a 10-8 advantage.

“Natalie (Bell) when she’s positive, she really helps us,” Smith said of Bell, one of three seniors on the team. “If she gets down on herself it hurts us as a group. When she stays positive and happy it really motivates us.”

The two would continue to play tight the rest of the set, the Lady Bears leading by no more than five and the Lady Saints tying things up at 13-all and getting to within one at 18-17, but Bell and Aryah Myrick collected back-to-back kills, followed by an Isabella Hardy kill and a Taylor Linville ace to push the lead back out to 22-18.

After a Lady Saints error and service error made it 24-19 Bracken, the Lady Bears followed with an error before a Bell kill ended the set at 25-20 to make it one set apiece and head to a third for the decider.

The two would continue the see-saw battle in the third set, with five ties and six lead changes within the first 15 points as the Lady Bears took an 8-7 edge after another Bell kill. The Lady Bears rattled off four straight to make it 11-7, the Lady Saints needing a timeout to regroup.

“I just told the girls not to give up and fight ‘til the whistle blows,” Brant said.

Bracken continued to stay in front, leading by as much as 16-12 and 23-19, but the scrappy Lady Saints weren’t done yet.

Facing match point at 24-20, they’d score the next three points, capitalizing on Bracken errors to make it 24-23. But after a Lady Bears timeout, a service error ended the match with a 25-23 final in the third set and a 2-1 victory for Bracken County.

“Communication is still a struggle for us, we’ve been working on that from day one. It got better at times tonight, then we got down on ourselves a few times and got quiet and didn’t play as a group. Then we got positive again and started playing as a group and got aggressive and stayed aggressive,” Smith said. “We hit some out, but stayed aggressive and kept hitting the ball and never backed down from hitting the ball. In the past that may not have been the case where they’d drop their heads and they were done.”

Myrick led the Lady Bears with 10 kills in the match while Linville led with six aces.

“Aryah really helps us out there at the net. She’s a beast up there at the net and is a good server. Taylor, she’s just consistent in the back row,” Smith said.

Bracken County now has a week off before they return to action against Grant County at home on August 14.

Klee led the Lady Saints with eight kills and Caroline McKay led with three aces.

“We’ve been working with Justina in practice. That’s what her role is, she’s in the front row and we want her to kill the ball every time she gets it. The future is bright for us. We only have two seniors and they know what to expect from us and these younger girls really want us to win.”

St. Patrick has a busy first week, turning right back around on Wednesday to face Fleming County at home.

“I’m proud of them, we have some things we can work on in practice, but we’re back at it tomorrow. This was good practice for Fleming County,” Brant said.

Bracken County def. St. Patrick, 2-1 (26-28, 25-20, 25-23)

Match Stats

Aces: Bracken 15 (Linville 6), St. Patrick 12 (C. McKay 3)

Kills: Bracken 24 (Myrick 10), St. Patrick 21 (Klee 8)

Service Errors: Bracken 7, St. Patrick 8

Errors: Bracken 30, St. Patrick 24

Records: Bracken County 1-0, St. Patrick 0-1

St. Patrick’s Justina Klee (green) and Bracken County’s Aly Keuper (blue) meet at the net in Tuesday’s match played at St. Patrick. The Lady Bears came away with a 2-1 (26-28, 25-20, 25-23) victory in a highly competitive match.
https://maysville-online.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_volleyball1.jpgSt. Patrick’s Justina Klee (green) and Bracken County’s Aly Keuper (blue) meet at the net in Tuesday’s match played at St. Patrick. The Lady Bears came away with a 2-1 (26-28, 25-20, 25-23) victory in a highly competitive match.

St. Patrick’s Jaclyn Stewart (green) and Bracken County’s Aryah Myrick (blue) wish each other good luck before Tuesday’s game, at St. Patrick.
https://maysville-online.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_volleyball2.jpgSt. Patrick’s Jaclyn Stewart (green) and Bracken County’s Aryah Myrick (blue) wish each other good luck before Tuesday’s game, at St. Patrick.
See-saw battle goes the three-time defending district champs’ way

 

EVAN DENNISON

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