• Rick Capone, Sports Editor

Lady Jackets advance to District final

CALEIGH EVANS’s strong play helped the Woodford County High School volleyball team defeat Franklin County, 3-1, in the first round of the 41st District tournament, which was played at Western Hills on Tuesday, Oct. 18. With the win, the Lady Jackets advanced to the district championship match against Western Hills on Wednesday. (Photo by Rick Capone)

The Woodford County High School volleyball team was determined to make it to the 41st District championship match, but first they had to defeat Franklin County on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at Western Hills, in the opening round to get there. In their two previous meetings this year, Woodford won both times. But, those were regular season matches. The district playoffs are for much bigger stakes, and the two teams were both on their games. In the match, things did not start well for the Lady Jackets. After losing the first set and falling behind in the second, Woodford finally pulled together and won the second set, won an epic third set and, finally, won the fourth set to get the win, 3-1 (21-25, 25-19, 28-26, 25-16). “We pretty consistently start slow, so coming back is not anything new for this team,” said Woodford head coach Meghan Bottom. “We did kind of make it an artform tonight with how close we kept it. But Franklin County did a good job of keeping the ball up and playing really scrappy. So that’s a credit to them. But, my girls, they support one another, they fight for one another; they’re a family and they played like a family tonight.” With the win, Woodford advanced to the district championship match against Western Hills on Wednesday, Oct. 19, where they were going for their fourth district title in five years. Results of that match were not available at press time, but will appear in next week’s Woodford Sun. In the first set on Tuesday, both teams kept things close and were never more than a few points apart the entire tme. Western Hills took an early lead, and Woodford had to play catch up most of the way, finally tying it 12-12 and then taking a 13-12 lead on a Lady Flyer service error. Franklin County came right back, kept the pressure on, and opened up a five-point lead, 20-15. Woodford fought back once again and got to within two points, 23-21, before the Lady Flyers scored the next two points to win the first set, 25-21. The second set was just as close as the first, with Franklin County jumping out to an early lead. Woodford fought hard and finally tied it 11-11, then took a 12-11 lead. They held that lead the remainder of the set and won, 25-19. The third set started like the first two, as Franklin County took an early lead and seemed to be in control. At one point the set, they held a seven-point lead, 14-7. But then Woodford dug in and started to slowly come back. With strong serving, hard hitting and some Franklin County errors, the Lady Jackets got to within five points, 17-12, on a kill by senior Caleigh Evans Evans then went back to serve and two kills by freshman Laura Crutchfield, and one by junior Lauren Smiley, and Woodford was within two points, 17-15. The two teams then battled ferociously the rest of the way. With Franklin County ahead 24-21, WCHS senior Ashlyn Chumley served an ace, which was followed by a Lady Flyer attack error and a Woodford kill that tied the set, 24-24. The two teams traded points until it was tied, 26-26. Then, a service error by Franklin County gave Woodford set point with Evans serving once again. The senior middle hitter served a really hard ball, which Franklin County mishandled, resulting in a Lady Flyer attack error that gave the Lady Jackets the set, 28-26. That loss in the fourth set seemed to demoralize Franklin County, and they came out flat in the fourth set, which let Woodford open up an early 10-4 lead. After that, while the Lady Flyers did regain a little momentum, there was no stopping the Lady Jackets, who went on to win the set and match, 25-16. One of the keys to the match was the play of Evans, who by the end of the third game and throughout the fourth game was hitting the ball so hard that Franklin County could not even get their hands on it to try and make a play. “Caleigh does a great job when she’s on,” said Bottom. “She hits one of the harder balls in our district out of everybody in our district. And, I’m really proud of her for that because she’s grown leaps and bounds over the last three years as far as a hitter and a leader on the court.” As to how Woodford would try and play Western Hills in the championship final on Wednesday, Bottom said, “We’re going to attempt to not have to come back from so many (points down) during the first game. “I think my girls are mentally ready to play. They’re focused, they’re looking forward to this, and they were not allowed to think about Western Hills prior to beating Franklin County. So, now that they get to think and prepare themselves, I think they’re going to come out strong.”

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