It took everything they had, but Owensboro Catholic prevailed in a five-set thriller over Daviess County in a 9th District volleyball battle full of long rallies and powerful points.
The Lady Panthers (10-3, 1-1) won the second and third frames to set the stage for an upset, but the Lady Aces (8-5, 2-0) ultimately triumphed at home for a 3-2 (25-19, 23-25, 24-26, 25-22, 15-12) victory.
In the fifth and deciding set, Catholic took an early advantage and never trailed. They stretched their lead to 12-7, but DC clawed back to get within 13-12.
For a full photo gallery from the game, click here.
Belle Wright then set up match point for the Lady Aces by smashing the ball at the net on a designed play, and an ace by Madeline Castlen secured the win.
Catholic head coach Brian Hardison said Castlen played big at the net and was key in the victory, though it was a full team effort that helped them come out on top.
“She was a monster,” he said. “Everybody contributed, but down the stretch she was the big dog. I want to see them fight, and that’s exactly what they did. They could have easily rolled over after they lost those two games.”
The Lady Aces never quite pulled away in the opening frame but still went up 1-0 with relative ease, though they couldn’t hold on to late leads in either of the next two sets as the Lady Panthers gained momentum.
In set two, DC used a 10-3 run to take a 21-17 advantage. Catholic closed the gap to a single point twice before their final serve sailed way long to even the match at one set each.
The Lady Panthers couldn’t trim a three-point deficit for most of the third, and the Lady Aces had a pair of match points at 24-22. During the service game of Chea Bowers, though, DC rattle off four consecutive points to win another set.
The teams nearly matched each other point for point in the fourth set, with Catholic using four in a row to take a late 21-17 lead that DC couldn’t overcome.
Lady Panthers head coach Tyla Bailey was disappointed they couldn’t close out the win, but she was proud of the effort.
“I’m pleased with how the girls played,” she said. “Catholic is a tough team. It’s a battle point by point. There’s some stuff we need to tweak, but overall I’m pleased.”
After several years of Apollo and Owensboro Catholic dominating the 9th District, Bailey said her team proved they’ve taken a big step forward and can be contenders this season.
“They work hard every day,” she said. “They want it. This year just seems like a different dynamic. I’m excited to move forward.”
For Hardison, he was most proud of the way his team worked together and pushed through rather than hanging their heads.
“I was very happy with them,” Hardison said. “Not just the seniors, but the young girls came through, too. They played together. That was the key. I told them individuals lose, and teams win.”
Catholic was led in the win by Cecilia Clemens (47 assists, 5 aces, 3 kills, 2 digs), Cassidy Towery (18 kills, 4 digs, 3 aces), Wright (10 kills, 7 digs), Cate Sights (13 kills, 2 blocks), Jenna Glenn (8 digs) and Castlen (7 kills).
DC was led by Ashton Johnson (12 kills, 8 aces, 7 digs), Ryann Keller (21 assists, 2 blocks), Hannah Axley (18 assists), Elizabeth Moore (16 kills, 2 blocks), Kendal Goetz (16 digs, 2 aces), Kloee Phelps (9 digs, 7 kills), Kinsley Phelps (7 kills, 7 blocks), Jasmine Beasley (4 kills, 2 blocks), Bowers (7 digs), and Kayla Clark (5 digs).
The Lady Aces are back in action this weekend in the All “A” Classic state tournament. The Lady Panthers play again Thursday when they host Meade County.