Mason County had hopes to break in the Shelby Hesler era with a victory at The Fieldhouse Tuesday, but Fleming County had other plans for the new Lady Royals coach.
The Lady Panthers used rallies in all three sets to take the match, 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-16), improving to 2-1 on the season, while the Lady Royals dropped their season opener to fall to 0-1.
All three sets looked like they’d go down to the wire, but a 6-2 Lady Panthers run to end the first set, a 9-3 run to end the second set and a 14-2 run to end the third and final set earned a clean sweep for Fleming, winning their fourth straight over their rival opponent.
“We had good ball control tonight. We’re working with a 6-2 rotation where we have multiple setters and we’re still getting used to that. We still need to work on our serve-receive a lot,” Lady Panthers coach Nick Thrasher said. “We haven’t had a team that’s had this kind of expectations before, so we’re a work in progress, but we’ll get there.”
Fleming would jump out to an 8-3 lead in the first, but nine service errors in the set kept the Lady Royals within striking distance, the eighth one of the set tying things up at 18-all. A Lady Royals error was followed by a Meya Myrick kill to keep things even, but the front line play of Macie Hughes and Kathryn Burke paired with two Carley Dunaway aces gave the Lady Panthers a 23-19 lead. The two would trade errors from there before an Analeise Mitchell kill put an end to the first set at 25-21.
The Lady Royals jumped out to a 9-6 lead in the second, but the Lady Panthers responded with seven straight points to make it 13-9, forcing a Lady Royals timeout.
“We just need to be able to pick ourselves up from that last point. I feel like all teenage girls struggle with that is picking yourself up after that last point. We need to work on our mental fortitude in practice a little bit,” Hesler said.
They’d fight back to get within 18-15 in the set keyed by an Emily Huber kill and two aces, but back-to-back kills from Gracie Fearin stalled their momentum as the Lady Royals would get no closer than four points the rest of the set that was closed out by a Dunaway ace.
Not ready to call it a night yet, Mason County jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the third behind the strong service game of Alyssa Cracraft, racking up a couple of aces in the opening points. They’d continue to hold an edge in the set up to 14-11, but a Lady Panthers flurry in which they tallied three kills and two aces from Lauren Moran set them off on an 8-0 run to take a 19-14 advantage. After a service error from Moran, the Lady Royals followed with a trio of errors to give Fleming a commanding 22-15 advantage.
The Lady Panthers would record three of the final four points to close out the match with a clean sweep.
“We had some silly errors, but I think the depth here always throws us off,” Thrasher said. “We’re getting to a place where the girls are starting to settle in, but we’re hoping two days of practice before our tournament this weekend will get us going.”
The win comes off a loss Tuesday night against Harrison County in straight sets.
They’ll return to action Saturday as they host the Seeds-4-Success Tournament in Flemingsburg. The tournament features eight teams with pool play starting at 8:15 a.m. The Lady Panthers will play Nicholas County, Owen County and Boyd County in pool play before tournament play starts.
“I think this weekend will tell us a lot. We’ve got several teams that will push us. My goal when I started trying to pull eight teams together was to get like-level teams so that we could play lots of points. My team needs that mental toughness to push us and I don’t think we have it yet,” Thrasher said.
Carley Dunaway and Lauren Moran led the Lady Panthers with four aces apiece while xx led with xx kills.
The Lady Royals will also be competing in the Seeds-4-Success Tournament, but first have a 39th District matchup with Augusta on Thursday at the Panthers Den.
“I really look forward to where Augusta is such a small gym they’ll have to have such good ball control. It will really challenge the girl because that’s not really an issue here in The Fieldhouse. Ball control will be a challenge for us tomorrow,” Hesler said.
Lexi Cooper led the Lady Royals with five aces while Meya Myrick, Sarah Bravard and Emily Huber had one kill each.
FLEMING COUNTY DEF. MASON COUNTY, 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-16)
Aces: Fleming 16 (Dunaway, Moran 4) Mason 14 (Cooper 5)
Kills: Fleming 22 (Mitchell 5), Mason 3 (Myrick, Bravard, Huber 1)
Service Errors: Fleming 17, Mason 13
Errors: Fleming 22, Mason 22
Records: Fleming County 2-1, Mason County 0-1