Records were thrown out the window in a highly competitive 39th District Matchup Tuesday night at the Fieldhouse.
The Bracken County volleyball team entered at 8-6 and having won five of the last six matchups over Mason County, entering at 3-12 on the season.
The Lady Royals came out inspired and it showed in their play, bursting out to an 11-1 lead in the opening set. They’d continue to use that momentum to take the first set with ease, 25-16. But the three-time district champs came to after struggling out the gate to take the final two sets and the match over the Lady Royals, 2-1 (16-25, 26-24, 25-10).
Nothing came easy early on for the Lady Bears as a sequence of four straight errors dug them the 11-1 deficit.
“They had a lot of energy. We came out flat. They were fired up and ready to go,” Lady Bears coach Wade Smith said. “Their serves were on point, we struggled with serve-receive right off the bat, had to make some adjustments to that. They were just fired up and we weren’t.”
Eight aces and five kills in the first set helped the Lady Royals pull away as they played one of their more impressive sets of the season, led by a huge ball of energy from the players on the floor and the bench.
“I don’t know what exactly caused the energy, but if I did, I would bottle it and sustain it forever,” Lady Royals coach Shelby Hesler said. “They ran out as a unit and that was the difference. I didn’t have six individual players, I had one team out there and that was the difference tonight.”
The Lady Bears responded in the second set, opening up with a 6-1 lead and causing a Lady Royals timeout. They’d continue to lead comfortably until an 8-3 run got the Lady Royals within one at 16-15 fueled by an Alyssa Cracraft ace. The two would go back-and-forth from there until the Lady Royals rattled off three straight points to make it 21-19 in their favor, four points away from taking the match.
A service error followed by an error knotted things back up at 21-all and the Lady Bears returned the favor with a service error to give the Lady Royals the lead back at 22-21. Back-to-back kills by the Lady Bears put the momentum back in their favor at 23-22, but a service error tied things back up at 23-all. The two would then trade service errors to keep things in a tie at 24-all.
But then it was Aryah Myrick’s turn to take matters into her own ends, ending the second set with consecutive kills and a 26-24 Bracken win in the set.
“One of them wasn’t the greatest of sets, but Aryah made something out of it. When one of your best players steps up, you got to have them step up. It was a close game and we had to have that,” Smith said.
Then it was Taylor Linville’s turn in the service game, racking up four aces on Bracken’s way to an 11-0 lead to start the set.
“Taylor was on point tonight with her serves. She served well all night. Pinpoint accuracy, right where she wanted to every single time and we need that from her because she’s capable of that all the time,” Smith said.
They’d continue to lead comfortably throughout the deciding set, the Lady Royals getting no closer than 17-9 as the Lady Bears closed out the contest with Myrick’s 13th kill of the evening and winning it 25-10.
“We stayed the course and we kept working, kept adjusting and kept going at it,” Smith said.
The win improves the Lady Bears to 9-6 and 3-0 in the district. The district record is nullified though when the 39th District Tournament draw will be held on September 20 to determine matchups. Myrick led with the 13 kills while Linville added eight aces to lead in the serving department. Bracken returns to play on Wednesday when they host Bourbon County.
The Lady Royals dropped to 3-13 and 1-2 in the district with the loss. Tuesday may have been a turning point though, as they put a big scare in the three-time defending district champs.
“We’ve told the girls you did this against Bracken County, Bracken County has made a name for themselves in the district. So this is the standard for these girls now. We expect nothing less and these girls know they are more than capable, there is none of that we can’t do this, they are more than capable,” Hesler said.
The Lady Royals were led by Cracraft’s five aces and Emily Huber’s seven kills. They turn right back around on Wednesday and have a road match with Ripley.
BRACKEN COUNTY DEF. MASON COUNTY, 2-1 (16-25, 26-24, 25-10)
Aces: Bracken 12 (Linville 8), Mason 12 (Cracraft 5)
Kills: Bracken 24 (Myrick 13), Mason 17 (E. Huber 7)
Errors: Bracken 21, Mason 22
Service Errors: Bracken 7, Mason 10
Records: Bracken County (9-6, 3-0), Mason County (3-13, 1-2)