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Lady Pat VB team repeats as district champ

LANCASTER — After two hotly-contested matches with Danville in the regular-season, Lincoln County volleyball coach Samantha Torres knew a rematch in the 45th District Tournament championship game would be a battle once again.

And she was right. In a back-and-forth battle, which saw lots of long and hard-fought points, the Lady Patriots successfully defended their district title by beating the Lady Admirals 3-1 at Garrard County Middle School.

“We had split with Danville earlier in the season,” said Torres. “They had been long matches and long volleys within those matches. So we knew going in it was going to be tough.”

Many of Lincoln’s points in the match came with some power, as the Lady Patriots slammed kills in against the Lady Ads.

“We worked really hard on finding the holes,” Torres said about her offense. “That’s what my bench does – they’ll alert them that ‘this is open or that’s open’ – so we don’t have to work as hard.”

The Lady Patriots (13-15) went up two points early in the first set of the title match, but a four point Danville rally swung momentum back in the Lady Admirals’ favor, as they took a 7-4 lead and maintained that cushion for several services. It wouldn’t be until 15-14 that the Lady Patriots would regain the lead. Back-and-forth play followed until the final point of the set.

A typical volleyball match is decided at 25 points, but it would take a couple more points before a winner was declared in the first set. Lincoln broke a 25-25 tie to get side out then scored the next two points for the 27-25 win.

The Lady Ads (18-16) came out firing in the second set to build a 5-1 lead early. Lincoln battled back to tie the game at 16-all only to have Danville close on a 9-3 run to take the set 25-19.

Lincoln fell behind 7-4 early in the third set but managed to rally behind the service of Emery Bertram. The Lady Patriots earned sideout to make it 7-5 then proceeded to roll off five straight points to go on top to stay, 10-7. Lincoln then closed on a 4-0 run off the service of Peyton Griffin for the 25-16 set three win.

Lincoln found itself behind early in the fourth set. Down 7-2, Torres called timeout and, like in many of its other timeouts in the match, Lincoln won the point coming out of the huddle. So, what did the Lady Pat mentor say to her team?

“Mostly that it’s a mental game and they have to keep their heads strong and stay confident,” Torres said. “Remind them that they’ve come back from bigger – this is our typical. We like to dig holes and fight out of them. So they just need to stay calm. We tend to get upset and then we lose a few points. It’s all mental.”

Lincoln slowly whittled away at the Danville lead, eventually tying the game at 13-13 and 14-14. The Lady Patriots then sealed the fourth-set win with an 11-2 scoring surge to repeat as district champion.

“The match was good. We repeated exactly what we did last night (semifinals) where we won the first set, lost the second and came back and won the next two,” Torres said. “It was definitely a mental game. We lost momentum in the second set and came back and picked it right back up.”

While many players and coaches might have lamented having to play from behind every set of the match before earning the win, Torres said it was just typical Lincoln.

“I feel like that’s the story of this year. We build a deficit and then crawl back out of it,” she said. “It really goes to show how strong of fighters they are and how passionate they are and how much they want to win.”

“They do (like to challenge themselves) and they like to give me a heart attack over on the bench,” she added with a laugh.

Lincoln had a total of 44 kills in the win, led by Peyton Griffin with 16. Emery Bertram had nine kills, Kaylynn Smith had seven, Sarah Beth Grimes, six, Kasie Mullins, four, and Alyssa Salyers, two.

The big numbers came in digs, with 105 for Lincoln. Grimes led a quintet of Lady Patriots with double-digit digs with 25. Griffin had 24 for the match, Kaylie Cotter had 23, Bertram had 17 and Jada Whited collected 13. Shelbie Mills finished with two digs and Smith had one.

Grimes would also lead in assists with 28. She also had four blocks and two aces.

Mullins led in blocks with six. Salyers followed with five.

Griffin’s stats would include seven assists and an ace. Cotter added two aces and an assist, Bertram had two aces and Salyers and Whited each had an assist.