• Bill Caine, Woodford Sun Sports

Lady Jackets volleyball win district title

DISTRICT 41 ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM selections for Woodford County were Claire Lehmkuhler, Evelyn Milburn (MVP), Lauren Smiley and Piper McCoun.  (Photo by Bill Caine)

2017 DISTRICT 41 CHAMPIONS Woodford County High School Lady Yellow Jackets. Front row, from left, are Hope Baker, Riley Dawkins, Evelyn Milburn, Karigan Smith, Georgia Sutterlin, and Laura Crutchfield; middle row, Lauren Smiley, Victoria Kupets, and Taylor Holbrook; back row, Chris Thomas (assistant coach), Caroline Miller, Claire Lehmkuhler, Adie Preston, Allison Birch, Piper McCoun, Anna Holt, Meghan Bottom (head coach). (Photo by Bill Caine)

GEORGIA SUTTERLIN attempts a bump in the district championship game on Oct. 18.  The Jackets won the District 41 title by defeating Franklin County 3-0.  (Photo by Bill Caine)

The Woodford County High School Lady Jackets won the District 41 volleyball championship 3-0 (25-21, 25-16, 25-12) on Oct. 18. The championship game was played against Franklin County in the Woodford County High School gym in front of large crowd. "It's been a long journey this season," said Coach Meghan Bottom. "We had a rocky start to the season and we weren't very good fundamentally, but then the girls decided they would be committed and worked hard. These girls play for one another. This is unlike any team I have coached in the past, they are incredibly happy go lucky, they don't let anything get them down and they love each other." Early on in the first set, Franklin County was aggressive and won the majority of their points at the net to take an 8-3 lead out of the gate. The Jackets were struggling to piece points together and the Lady Flyers were more consistent to start. After a few long rallies were won by the Flyers, Woodford came roaring back. Georgia Sutterlin was fantastic serving the ball and the Jackets rallied back to take the first set 25-21. "I think we were nervous to start; I know I was," said freshman Claire Lehmkuhler. "This is a big stage for many of us young players and it's something we have never experienced before but I feel like we handled it well and I am curious how far we can take this. We've talked about this amongst ourselves a lot and to be successful we have to be willing to risk it all. Be willing to try and make mistakes because we don't know what we can accomplish until we try it." Early in the second set, neither team showed a clear advantage. The Lady Jackets gained momentum on a Piper McCoun kill at the net to make the score 10-6 and sparked a timeout by Franklin County. Lehmkuhler was brilliant with her serves and the Jackets protected the net to make the score 16-10 and force another timeout. Hope Baker rattled off six straight service points and brought the Jackets to within a point of winning the set before the Lady Flyers broke serve. The Flyers served the ball into the net on the next play and the Jackets won the set 25-16. The buildup to tonight was crazy for me," said sophomore Evelyn Milburn. "I watched the clock a lot today and every hour that passed, I grew more nervous. I think we just trust each other so much on the court that we know what we can do together so we are being aggressive and making positive things happen on the court." In the third set, the Jackets once again came out fast and jumped to a. 11-6 lead. The net play of Woodford was impressive, with kills by Lehmkuhler and senior leader Lauren Smiley. When Lehmkuhler's chance to serve came again, she was terrific in placing the ball. After a pair of kills by Sutterlin and Laura Crutchfield, the Jackets were on the verge of a district title. The end of the game was anticlimactic, as the Lady Flyers served the ball into the net to clinch the game. In a postgame ceremony, Lehmkuhler, Smiley and McCoun were all named to the All-Tournament team with Milburn being named MVP of the tournament. "When I was a freshman, I was able to watch the seniors win a district championship and I am so grateful to experience this with this young team alongside me," said Smiley. "I cannot understate how close we have become and how hard we want each other to be successful and that makes tonight so much more special for us and to win it on our home floor in front our friends and families is incredible." Bryan Station On Monday Oct. 23, the Lady Jackets were defeated 3-0 in the quarterfinals of the regional tournament by Bryan Station in a match played at Woodford County High School. The Jackets fought hard all match but were turned away by the Defenders. Both teams had terrific energy and many points were saved by diving digs being made all over the court. The difference in the match was the experience of the Defender squad. Woodford is one of the youngest teams in the region but the future looks terrific for the Lady Jackets. "They were optimistic," said Bottom when asked about the mood of the team after the loss. "The girls have grown together very well over this season and the future looks bright. Lauren (Smiley) was upset as you can expect and the girls thanked her for the leadership she gave them this season. I'm excited to see what the next couple of years looks like from this team."

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