After splitting their first two sets with Augusta on Monday in the 39th District Tournament semifinals, the Lady Royals needed a spark.
Meya Myrick and the senior trio of Lexy Cooper, Emily and Grace Huber provided it. The quartet racked up 15 kills and two aces as the Lady Royals closed out the final two sets over the Lady Panthers to take a 3-1 (25-14, 20-25, 25-19, 25-22), victory and advance to Wednesday’s district championship against Bracken County.
“Their energy was all over the place tonight. Meya’s energy to go everywhere bleeds on to the others. I love having that out on the court,” Lady Royals coach Shelby Hesler said. “I love having all three of my seniors and am so thankful to have them on the court. Not only are they good on execution, but they are leaders verbally. It’s great.”
The Lady Royals came out with a strong service game to start, racking up eight aces in the first set and capitalized on nine Augusta errors to ease by 25-14.
“The girls knew that they had beat them twice, but if they came in expecting anything less from Augusta they were going to lose, so we really wanted to get off to a good start and we did,” Hesler said.
The Lady Panthers responded in the second after falling down in the set early at 8-5 to grab a 9-8 lead as Hallie Mofford’s ace gave them the advantage. Mason County responded with the next three points, but an Augusta 7-1 run pushed them back to a 16-12 edge thanks to a couple of Nicole Arthur aces. The runs continued as the Lady Royals scored the next four to even things up at 16-all, but Augusta took and controlled the lead from their with the next five points. The Lady Royals would get no closer than four from there as Augusta evened things up at a set apiece, the final point coming from the Lady Royals 14th error of the set.
Augusta would ride that momentum in the third set, taking a 6-4 advantage after an Arthur kill. A 6-1 Lady Royals run followed led by a couple of Myrick and Grace Huber kills to give them a 10-7 edge. Augusta kept clawing back, getting within two on six different occasions, but never could overcome the deficit as three of the last five final points came via an ace for the Lady Royals, two from Myrick and the set-ender from Kamryn Fryman at 25-19.
“We just had a few moments of momentarily lapses where those old demons came back to haunt us. There were a few moments of that and when we called timeout to remind them of that, I felt they went back in and played really hard,” Augusta coach Roy Machen said.
The match looked like it was going to end easily from there for the Lady Royals, jumping out to a 10-2 advantage in the fourth. But the Lady Panthers showed they weren’t going out that easily, clawing all the way back to tie things up at 20-all after a Hallie Mofford ace.
The tension mounted and nerves hit as a service error followed by an Arthur kill evened things back up at 21. Emily Huber’s kill was followed by back-to-back Alyssa Cracraft aces to give Mason County set point at 24-21.
Arthur, the lone senior on the Lady Panthers wasn’t ready for things to end with another kill to get them within 24-22, but another Emily Huber kill closed out the contest, ensuring the senior at least another week of volleyball and a chance to knock off Bracken County in the district championship Wednesday evening at 6 p.m.
“I told the girls we’ve come this far, we’ve got to keep pushing. They’ve guaranteed themselves another week of their season and they should be proud if nothing else,” Hesler said.
The Lady Royals improved to 7-24 with the victory, in the match they tallied 19 aces and 27 kills. Myrick led with six aces and Emily Huber led with nine kills.
The Lady Panthers season comes to a close at 5-19. As stated earlier, they’ll return everyone but Arthur.
“We’ll come back stronger. We’ll miss Nicole. She’s my girl, been with me since a long time. She played her heart out and I’m proud of my girls. No complaints from me,” Machen said. “We need to work on our communication more, fix our setting, I thought a few of those calls tonight were questionable on the double hits. I’m extremely proud, we’ve got some things we got to work on, it will come together and the 39th will see a different Augusta team next year.”
Augusta had 12 aces and 20 kills. Mofford led with three aces and Michaelea Remley and Arthur had six kills apiece.
MASON COUNTY DEF. AUGUSTA 3-1 (25-14, 20-25, 25-19, 25-22)
Aces: Augusta 12 (Mofford 3), Mason 19 (Myrick 6)
Kills: Augusta 20 (Remley 6, Arthur 6), Mason 27 (E. Huber 9)
Service Errors: Augusta 15, Mason 15
Errors: Augusta 32, Mason 34
Records: Augusta 5-19, Mason County 7-24