For the fourth consecutive year, Christian Fellowship and Community Christian Academy met at the Paducah SportsPlex with the First Region All "A" volleyball championship on the line. After dropping the 2016 contest, the Eagles were looking for the three-peat on Saturday.
After two tight, high-scoring sets and a big comeback in the second set, CFS took the title once again 25-22 and 27-25. For Eagle coach Suzie Burnett, it was another big test for her team.
"They're tough every year; this is good competition," Burnett said after the championship match.
The Eagles took care of that competition throughout the play with pool play wins over Hickman County (27-25 and 25-13), St. Mary (25-6 and 25-15), Fulton County (25-19 and 25-4) and Ballard Memorial (25-14 and 25-22). CFS took on Mayfield, the runner-up in the other pool, and triumphed 25-16 and 25-10. CCA also swept through pool play against Mayfield (25-21, 24-26 and 15-11), Murray (25-18 and 25-19), Fulton CIty (25-11 and 25-10) and Carlisle County (25-10 and 25-8). The Warriors needed three sets to take care of Ballard Memorial 25-20, 21-25 and 15-9 in their semifinal.
Neither side had too big an edge in the first set. CCA was up 14-11 at one point before CFS stormed back to tie it at 15. A 6-2 run gave the Eagles their biggest lead of that set, and more back-and-forth action earned the win for CFS.
The Warriors came back to life with the second set. As Lilli Clinard and Micah Estes made the big serves, CCA built a 16-8 lead when Burnett called a timeout to get her squad going again.
"We gave them a lot of points that game," Burnett said of the Eagles' second set play. "We needed to regroup and get back to the basics. We had to keep moving our feet. We had played six games and we were tired and we needed to refocus."
Emma Fletcher seved six consecutive points to narrow the gap considerably. CFS finally tied it at 22 before emerging from more back-and forth for the championship.
For CCA coach Rhett McMullen, it was a solid tournament with another disappointing ending.
"I'm proud of my girls and their win over Ballard," McMullen said afterward. "I thought maybe we should have won the second game and gone to three. CFS did what it takes to get the job done. They dug balls and kept getting it into play. We have to take advantage of situations and we didn''t."
Abigail Cima and Emma Alexander led the offense with 12 kills and 19 assists, respectively, for CFS, which advances to the State All "A" Tournament on Friday and Saturday at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. The Eagles will take on Caldwell County at 6:45 p.m. Friday followed by an 8:15 match with Bishop Brossart.