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Lady Pat volleyball bows out of regionals in Mercer loss

SOMERSET — The Lincoln County High School volleyball team made what has become its annual visit to the 12th Region Tournament since 2016 Monday night, this year traveling to Southwestern High School for the tourney’s opening round.

The Lady Patriots, champions of the 45th District, took on the Mercer County Titans, the runners-up in the 46th District, in the first-round match and unfortunately, just like in the two teams regular-season meetings, it was Mercer coming away with the “W” as Lincoln fell 3-1.

Lincoln (13-16) started strong in the tourney’s first set, holding off Mercer 26-24. However, the Lady Patriots could not keep pace throughout the match with the Titans (18-7) winning the next three sets, 25-20, 25-16, 25-18, to advance to Wednesday’s semifinal match with Pulaski County, a 3-1 winner against Wayne County Monday.

Lincoln coach Samantha Torres said the Lady Patriots’ regional run ended too soon.

“It ended much quicker than we wanted it to, especially after we won that first set,” she said. “We lost momentum there and never got it back. Like I’ve said the last couple games, it’s a mental game. It’s all mental and we lost that mental tonight.”

While Lincoln has experienced momentum swings in many of its matches this past season, Torres said Monday’s match was different.

“Usually we can fight back a lot faster and come back on teams,” she said. “Tonight, I felt like we were really up and down. I mean, it happens to us sometimes but tonight it was consistent.”

Lincoln fell behind early in the first set, with Mercer opening up a 9-2 lead. The Lady Patriots trailed for much of the set before finally tying the game at 22-all. After losing sideout to the Titans for a point, the Lady Patriots got sideout back trailing 24-23. They then scored the next three points off the service of Alyssa Salyers to take the set 26-24.

The Lady Patriots had to battle back from an early deficit in the second set as well. The Titans led 6-3 when Lincoln rallied. The team scored five points off the service of Sarah Beth Grimes to take an 8-6 lead then Emery Bertram served up two points for a 10-7 Lady Pat lead.

Mercer managed to tie the game up at 13 on sideout then used a 12-7 closing run to earn the 25-20 set.

There would be no Lincoln rally in the third set, with Mercer leading all the way in the 25-16 set win.

Lincoln led early in what would be the final set. The Lady Pats were up 4-3 when the Titans rallied to take the lead. Mercer rolled off four points off the service of Brinkley Prewitt to go up 7-5. The team never trailed again, slowly putting away Lincoln 25-18 to knock the Lady Pats out of the tourney and end their season.

Whether 0-3 losses to Mercer in the regular season factored in Lincoln’s lackluster finish to the season, Torres said she didn’t know,

”It very well could’ve. I don’t know. I just know they were down tonight,” she said. ““They were down for most of it except for that first set. I tried to encourage them to get up and cheer as loud as they can so they can build that momentum. But it just didn’t work tonight.”

Lincoln had four different players leading in the five stats of aces, kills, assists, blocks and digs. Sarah Beth Grimes led in assists and aces with 21 assists and two aces. Kaylynn Smith led in kills with 10, Peyton Griffin led in digs with 21 and Alyssa Salyers led in blocks with seven.

Griffin also had four kills, seven assists and one ace. Grimes added 13 digs and a block to her stats, Salyers added six kills and a dig and Smith added six digs.

Emery Bertram finished with eight kills, 15 digs, one ace and one assist. Kasie Mullins had four kills, three blocks, an assist and a dig, Kaylie Cotter had 12 digs and an assist, Jaded Whited had two kills, an assist and a dig, Lacey Peyton had four blocks and Shelbie Mills had one kill.

While the 2019 season did not finish as the Lady Patriots wanted, Torres commended her team for a good season.

“We’ve definitely come back from quite a bit this year,” she said. “This year we started out in quite a game deficit. I think at one point we were 3-8. To come back and finish with what we’re finishing with is a big success for the team. Then, on top of that, we had that district win. We may not have had as many total wins that we wanted or gone as far in region as we wanted, but we had those successes along the way.”