At the start of its first-round match in the state volleyball tournament, it looked like Caldwell County was well on its way to another win.
The Lady Tigers (19-6) won the first set 25-16 against first region champion McCracken County Monday in the Community Activities Building, but the Lady Mustangs made adjustments in the middle of the second set, turning a 15-12 CCHS lead into a 25-19 MCHS win.
McCracken County won the third set 25-16, but both teams battled in the fourth set before McCracken County (22-4) came out on top 25-19 to win the match and advance to the state quarterfinals in Winchester.
Caldwell County closed out its 2020 season as the Second Region champion, matching the program’s record for advancement to the first round of the state tournament, a feat it first achieved in 2003 and equaled in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Senior outside hitter Olivia Mitchell — named to the all-state first team earlier in the day, had a match-high 22 kills against McCracken County to go with 11 digs and a block. Senior middle blocker Abby Griggs — named to the all-state honorable mention team — added a team-high three blocks and eight kills.
Senior setter Kendyll Prowell handed out 34 assists to go with a team-high two aces and seven digs, while senior libero Riley Thomas repelled a team-high 16 digs.
McCracken County had a balanced attack, with 14 kills from Jayda Harris, 13 from Jenna Henshaw, 12 from Adele Mavigliano and 11 from Caroline Sivills.
CCHS head coach Daniel Cortner said that both teams came to the CAB for a battle.
“It was definitely a state tournament-level match,” he said. “I can’t thank enough for those that were here tonight for coming out.
“You look at these four seniors — you look at their career and look what they’ve done here — there’s nothing in that locker room you have to give.”
MCHS head coach Tim Whitis said that the Lady Mustangs had to make adjustments after seeing how well Caldwell County played in the first set.
“I just didn’t think we were playing very well,” he said. “I think (Caldwell County) plays a little bit different style of volleyball than what we’re really used to seeing, and it took our kids just a little bit to try to adjust and come around.
“I thought that after we made a few adjustments, I thought the kids started playing a little bit better, and (Caldwell County) were kind of on the defense because I thought we started attacking the ball a lot better.”
Cortner said McCracken County’s height was something that the Lady Tigers hadn’t seen much of all year.
“We jumped out all over them in the first set,” he said. “We were confident, we were hot and really executed every bit of our game plan. But, when you go in to play McCracken and they’re 2 or 3 inches taller — 2 or 3 inches longer — than what we scored on all year, the things that we did to get here just weren’t falling on that side.
“We knew all weekend long that their big hitters were going to get big kills, and that didn’t faze us. They were going to hit great, big holes in the floor, and we said — not so much ‘So, what,’ but ‘OK,’ and then, we turned around and we got ours.”
Cortner said that Caldwell County didn’t make adequate adjustments to alter the Lady Mustang offense.
“We didn’t get them out of system near as often as we wanted to,” he said. “…Our defense — we got pegged by a lot of balls tonight, and they played them right back up. … It just took way too many points to get Olivia on the front row.”