It was no surprise to fans in this part of Kentucky when the McCracken County Lady Mustangs once again won the Quad State Volleyball Tournament this weekend at McCracken's Strawberry Hill Arena and Paducah SportsPlex.
But it was not easy.
This year, the Lady Mustangs faced perennial state tournament teams like Lafayette, Breckinridge County, Logan County, Owensboro Catholic, Southwestern, Simon Kenton, and Piggott, Arkansas, all of which made the Gold bracket by going undefeated in pool play.
In opening game of the Gold bracket, the Lady Mustangs upended Logan County (18-2) winning sets of 25-21 and 25-14. In the second round, McCracken topped Owensboro-Catholic 25-11 and 25-18, as Jayda Harris got hot with three kills and three blocks in the second set.
"We've been working on Jayda's timing," head coach Tim Whitis said. "She'd doing a really good job. She's long and hits big."
Gracie Murt, Makenzie Mason, Aubree Tilly and Adele Mavigliano all added kills in the win.
In the championship match against Breckinridge County (21-2), the Lady Mustangs had their way at the net with five kills and four blocks for points along with four service aces leading to a 25-15 first-set win.
The Lady Mustangs were cruising along much the same in the second set until Breckinridge caught up and tied the set at 16-all. Whitis called a time out to settle down the team.
"I wasn't really worried," Whitis said. "I have faith in these girls. It's their home gym and they have something to prove. These girls do a good job stepping up and facing adversity. They figure out what to do to win. I'm really, really proud of them."
Harris stepped up again with two huge kills and a block point, fueling the Lady Mustangs to a 25-18 set win and the championship.
Christian Fellowship was the only First Region team in the Silver Bracket and fell out in the first round with a loss to Warren East. Earlier in the final pool game, the Lady Eagles lost their key offensive player, Lexi Hovekamp, to a sprained ankle. The Lady Eagles finished eighth in the Silver pool.
"We like this tournament because we get to play really good teams," CFS coach Suzie Burnett said. "It gets us up to a higher tempo before regional play."
The Bronze bracket championship was captured by Paducah Tilghman. The Lady Tornado, who entered the tournament with a 13-7 record and a young team in somewhat of a rebuilding mode, beat West Creek in the first round and Dyersburg, Tennessee, in the second round. That put the Lady Tornado up against Bardstown with a record of 18-4. Tilghman coach Carl Eligio had the squad believing in themselves and they walked away with the trophy.
Marshall County wound up third place in the Bronze bracket. After beating Germantown in the opener, they lost a tough sudden-death match to Bardstown and then finished with a sudden-death win over Dyersburg, winning the tie-breaker behind the play of Halle Langhi.
"Today was a breakthrough for us," Lady Marshals coach Laura Kinder said. "We have not played well this year in tournaments but today the team really responded. They were exhausted during the Dyersburg game. I was thrilled by their effort."
Langhi carried the team in the extra set, first from the net with key kills and blocks, and then from the back line with wicked serves and several saves.
"Halle is finally beginning to play her best volleyball," Kinder said. "Going forward we are going to be tough to beat."
Ballard Memorial captured fifth place in the Bronze bracket. After a first-round loss to Bardstown, the Lady Bombers regrouped and beat Germantown in the second round and beat Owensboro for fifth place. Lady Bombers coach Adam Solomon said, "These kids made a great effort competing hard in every game."
The Copper bracket championship was won by Community Christian Academy, a team that has been playing very well of late. The Lady Warriors first disposed of Hopkins County Central before beating Madisonville-North Hopkins in the final. Calloway County finished fourth in the bracket, losing to Madisonville in the opener.