FLEMINGSBURG – It was a rough weekend in Lexington for the Fleming County volleyball team.
The Lady Panthers lost all five matches they played during the Thoroughbred Smash at Lafayette without claiming a set.
But they improved, despite the results.
That was clear to head coach Nick Thrasher as Fleming County returned to action on Tuesday and came away with a 3-0 (26-24, 25-12, 25-20) straight set victory over Mason County.
“My thing always has been when you go to a tournament in Lexington, you go to one of Lafayette’s tournaments at KBA, it’s always – would I like to win? Is winning ultimately the goal? Absolutely. But at the end of the day what I want to know is can we pick up our pace of play and then can we bring that speed back home,” said Thrasher.
“I think that we, for whatever reason, we struggled getting going, we made a lot of errors, but more importantly I think Mason County played super clean in that first and our errors just piled up on us. I felt, after that, we got rolling a little bit,” added Thrasher. “We were really able to use some of that adversity from the Thoroughbred Smash in Lexington to kind of steer us a little bit against some of those things here.”
The two teams met near the beginning of the season and the Lady Panthers came away with a straight set victory, but the Lady Royals were determined to make it a closer match coming in this time.
“My girls – they want to win, but they want to win for themselves. They want to win for each other. It’s that mentality that helps carry them through because Fleming County is a strong team. They know Fleming County’s a strong team,” said Mason County coach Shelby Hesler. “But they support each other and they go out there and they’re like, ‘We don’t care, we’re going to do this for us.’”
Mason County jumped out to a 12-7 lead in the first set after two straight points from Alyssa Cracraft, which forced Thrasher to call a timeout.
“I do want to say kudos to Coach Hesler and her staff. This is not the same team we played in August. Most importantly I think they moved really well and they passed the ball really well,” said Thrasher. “We had to really work to score points.”
After Cracraft got the Lady Panthers with another serve out of the timeout, Fleming County used a 4-0 run behind the serve of Kathryn Burke to pull within two. The Lady Panthers eventually evened the score at 20-all on a Mason County error and after took a two-point lead with two more errors from the Lady Royals, forcing Hesler to call a timeout.
Fleming County notched the next two points on kills from Ashley Watson and Burke, before eventually closing out the set, 26-24.
The second set appeared as if it would be another close one – until Burke stepped up to serve.
With the score at 3-3, the senior struck four straight balls over the net that Mason County was unable to return to start to pull away.
“Katie Burke and I talk a lot. Katie Burke leads us in ace percentage, but the problem is that Katie Burke also has as many errors as she has aces,” said Thrasher. “Tonight, she showed what she can do when she limits those errors and that’s really the difference.”
The Lady Panthers used a 5-0 run later in the set highlighted by two aces from Carley Dunaway to make it a 16-8 lead, before closing out the set with the help of three kills from AnaLiese Mitchell. Shelby Litzler ended the set, 25-12, with one of her seven kills on the night.
“The potential has always been there, but Shelby Litzler really showed out tonight,” said Thrasher. “I mean really showed out.”
Serving started the third set strong again for Fleming County. The Lady Royals failed to return the first two balls the Lady Panthers put over the net and after another error made it 3-0, Lauren Moran had back-to-back aces to make it a 5-0 lead.
“They have an innate ability to have a low, power serve, which isn’t something you see a lot at this level,” said Hesler. “It was something our girls had to adjust to because they had to almost attack it like a kill rather than a serve, which is weird for them.”
The lead continued to grow from there to as many as 10 points at 23-13, allowing Fleming County to remove their seniors after celebrating their high school careers earlier in the evening.
A Macie Hughes kill ended the set, 25-20, and the match to move Fleming County to 8-17 on the season. The Lady Panthers are scheduled to travel to Lewis County on Thursday for a 7 p.m. match.
Mason County falls to 4-22 with the loss. The Lady Royals are scheduled to host Augusta on Thursday in a 7 p.m. match, before meeting with the Lady Panthers in the first round of the 39th District tournament in October.
FLEMING COUNTY DEF. MASON COUNTY, 3-0 (26-24, 25-12, 25-20)
Aces: Mason County 9 (Huber, Cracraft 3) Fleming County 15 (Burke 7)
Kills: Mason County 18 (Huber 8), Fleming County 28 (Litzler 7)
Service Errors: Mason County 9, Fleming County 9
Errors: Mason County 24, Fleming County 20
Records: Mason County 4-22, Fleming County 8-17