Lady Bombers Claim Three Peat In Title Game
By Tim Taylor
It is tough enough to win three district championships in a row, but to defeat the Graves County Lady Eagles four times in the same year may be even tougher. The Ballard Memorial Lady Bombers accomplished both feats, defeating the Lady Eagles 25-15, 20-25, 26-24, 25-20 to advance to the First Region Tournament as the Third District Champions.
It what can only be considered a true team win, Coach Adam Solomon had nothing but high praise for his team, but especially for the role players. Seniors Elizabeth Goodin and Jade Tilford get much of the headlines playing in their fifth season of varsity volleyball, but the role players really stepped up their game to help the Lady Bombers take their third consecutive 3rd District Championship. Senior Rebekah Hogancamp set the tone for the night as she helped serve the Lady Bombers to a 10-0 lead to start the match as the Lady Bombers cruised to the ten point first set victory. The Lady Eagles had 19 wins going into the match so the Lady Bombers knew Graves County would not go down without a fight. Ballard Memorial jumped out to the 4-0 lead and would extend the lead to 15-10 before the Lady Eagles would make their move. They would outscore Ballard Memorial 10-1 to claim the 20-16 advantage. The Lady Bombers would trim the deficit to 20-19 on a McKenzie Scott block, but that would be as close as they would get. Graves would score the last five of the set to tie the match at one all.
The Lady Eagles would jump out to the 3-0 lead in the third set and would still lead 8-5 when sophomore McKinsey Laster would provide a huge lift for the Lady Bombers. She would score three points in the stretch to cut the lead to 9-8. The important third set that would provide the winner with a distinctive advantage and the set would go back and forth through the midsection before the Lady Eagles would gain a little advantage at 19-15. Goodin would show some senior leadership and step up and make some crucial plays. Her back to back blocks would cut the lead to 19-17. Sophomore Hannah Gilbert would check in to serve and would provide a big boost for the Lady Bombers. Her consecutive aces would give the Lady Bombers the 21-20 lead. Tessa Blankenship's kill would put the Lady Bombers up 23-22. Graves would call a time out and come out of the break with two points to put themselves in position to take the set at 24-23. However, Blankenship found a hole in the Lady Eagles defense to tie the set at 24 all, then Goodin would get back to back kills to claim the set with the 26-24 victory to put Ballard Memorial up 2-1. Goodin said following the match on those two kills that claimed the set, "They were really exciting and it got the intensity up for the remainder of the match." The Lady Bombers would carry the momentum over to the fourth set. They would go up 6-2 with a pair of blocks by Goodin, and Tilford found an open spot to get a point. The Lady Bombers would go on a mini run to extend the lead to 17-9 on a Madison Trusha serve. After Graves County trimmed the lead to 17-13, Ballard Memorial would push the lead to 21-13 on a Blankenship ace. The Lady Eagles would come back to cut the deficit to 22-18 before Scott would make a couple of points to extend the lead to 24-19. Graves would cut the lead to 24-20 but would get no closer as the Lady Bombers got the last point to claim the four set victory taking the last set 25-20. "It's nice to say three peat," said Solomon adding, "This one feels sweeter just because it was a tougher road to get here."
The Lady Bombers have now defeated Graves County in all four meetings this season by a combined 11 sets to one. On the key to the championship win, Solomon said, "It was the unsung role players that came up big for us tonight." One of those role players Madison Trusha said, "I think we played hard and I think we played as a team and I hope we play well in regionals."
Goodin said of the three peat, "It has been awesome to be a part of each of the district championships and this one is really sweet since it is our senior year." Fellow senior Tilford said, "It is a big accomplishment overall. Not just for volleyball team but for the whole school."
Blankenship, Goodin, Tilford, and Adriana Worley were selected to the Third District All-Tournament team. The Lady Bombers head into the regional tournament play beginning next week. The regional pairing will be made on Friday afternoon as the Lady Bombers will play one of the losers from either the first, second, or fourth district. The fourth district champion will host the regional tournament as Marshall County and Calloway County will play for the district title and chance to host the regional tournament.
Last week, Ballard Memorial dropped their home finale to University Heights 3-1 losing 26-24, 22-25, 16-25, 22-25. This was their first game after fall break, and the Lady Bombers looked rusty from the week layoff. Fortunately, the rebounded nicely to claim their third district championship in a row. One win in the regional tournament will also provide the Lady Bombers with their third consecutive year with at least 25 wins as they currently stand at 24-12 on the season.