• 50°

Rebels redemption: Boyle wins district title in five-game match

At the end of the previous two 45th District volleyball tournaments, Boyle County had to watch as its opponent celebrated a five-game win in the title game.

In this year’s championship match, the Rebels finally came out on the positive end with a 3-2 win (23-25, 25-22, 19-25, 25-12, 15-12) over Lincoln County on Thursday at Rebel Gym.

“I knew they were going to bring their fight and their all, and we were, too,” Boyle coach Andrea Craig said. “I feel like we’re on the top of the roller coaster and we’re still going up.

“We’ve been prepping for this for a while. Last year was a heartbreaking five-set loss. After playing Tuesday and the heart and fight they had in that, they rolled up the momentum they had from that and executed really well.”

It’s Boyle’s first district title since winning the 43rd District in 2009. It broke a two-year stretch of losing to Garrard County in the 45th finals.

That this year’s match went extra games was of no surprise to either side. None of their three regular season matches ended with a sweep.

“Definitely lot of emotion, high emotion,” Lincoln coach Sam Torres said. “I definitely knew it would come down to the mental aspect of the game and who could hold it out longer. That’s about all I expected. You expect to win, you play to win.”

The first three games were absolute battles, with neither team holding more than a four-point lead until Lincoln scored the final nine points of the third game to take a 2-1 match lead.

Boyle opened four-point leads in each of the first two games, and Lincoln’s rally turned into a win in the first. In the second, the Patriots turned a 13-9 deficit into a 18-16 lead, but the Rebels scored five of the final eight points for the win.

The Rebels held a 19-17 lead in the third game when Jessie Wilson took serve. The sophomore didn’t turn the ball over until the Pats had rallied for the 25-19 win.

The match turned in the fourth game, when Boyle opened an 8-2 lead and didn’t let Lincoln back into the game. At one point, Rebels sophomore Mya Van Steenlandt scored three straight points on kills for a 13-4 lead. Later, Lexi Gourley served five straight points for a 22-9 lead.

Craig said the dominance her team showed in the fourth didn’t come as a surprise.

“I told them they’ve been here before, they’ve been here the last two years and walked away with a second (place), let’s go out there and get this on our home floor” Craig said.

“I was pushing them, I told them I wanted them to push that lead, get it as far out as you can because the farther you get apart, the more the head game is going to fall apart.”

The Patriots showed little effect from the fourth game at the beginning of the fifth, holding leads of 4-1 and 9-5. The fifth is played to 15 rather than 25, giving the teams less chances to rally from deficits.

But that’s what the Rebels did, tying the game at 10-10 on Van Steenlandt’s ace and going up 11-10 on Sierra Dean’s kill for a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. They went up 14-11 on Madison Turney’s service, and Gourley’s kill gave them the 15-12 win.

Van Steenlandt had 15 kills, six digs and three aces, and Dean added 10 kills and three digs. The duo was dominant from the left side for the Rebels.

“It was in the fourth set when we were dominating, I looked at them and said, ‘You need to feed the beast because right now, they’re it. Just keep going, keep going,’” Craig said.

Turney and Tori Underwood each had 12 digs, Brittney Kincaid had 18 digs and three aces, and Gourley had 23 assists, 18 digs, eight kills and two aces.

Both teams advance to next week’s 12th Region tournament at West Jessamine, and with the way each team played in the district final, both coaches are optimistic heading into their next bracket.

“I made sure to tell them, win or lose, we’re still as successful as we have been and we’re still going to region,” Torres said. “We lost the title, but we won’t let that take away from what we’ve accomplished. … We played tough, and they have really nice hitters, they’re really smart, and we hung with them.”

Craig said, “I’ve told them since day one, ‘It’s your’s for the taking, it just depends on how you use it, it’s all in your hands. If you want it bad enough you can take it.’”

Follow Jeremy Schneider on Twitter @jschneideramn

45th District All-Tournament team

KSD — Kaley Vickers

Garrard County — Neek Hocker

Danville — Lexi Branscum

Lincoln County — Jessie Wilson, Taryn Johnson

Boyle County — Mya Van Steenlandt, Lexi Gourley, Madison Turney