The McCracken County volleyball team entered its season last fall with one goal: make state.
That seemed likely considering Lone Oak reached the state tournament the previous three seasons and advanced to the quarterfinals the year before. But that success meant the Lady Mustangs were facing pressure to continue doing well after Heath, Lone Oak and Reidland consolidated.
"I think it was a little bit more this year because they did want to do more this year with it being a new school, more kids looking at you, the whole community knowing who you were," Lady Mustangs coach Tim Whitis said. "A lot of people were watching all of the sports to see what they were going to do, if they were going to be successful. It worked out well for us."
That's an understatement.
The Lady Mustangs cruised through the regular season, going 9-0 in their district and 12-0 in the First Region. They didn't lose a set against a team in the Paducah Sun coverage area, going 31-0.
And they achieved their goal of reaching the state tournament, where they beat Whitley County 25-11, 25-9, 25-8 in the first round. The Lady Mustangs then lost to Assumption, which MaxPreps.com ranks the No. 4 team nationally, 25-20, 25-13, 25-13, on Nov. 9.
"That was our goal: to play Assumption and beat Assumption," outside hitter Jasmine Bennett said. "That's who we train for every year. That's who we talk about every year. It's not like we're going to go in there like we're already beat. We have a chance to play with them."
Bennett, who earned her 1,000th kill last fall, believes her team handled the pressure well. Its success led to the first of six First Region team championships for McCracken County.
"That means a whole lot, being the first sport to accomplish that goal," she said. "It got our name out there for McCracken volleyball but also for McCracken County period."