Lady Knights win back-to-back district titles

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Face LaRue in the region

By Jesse Osbourne

Despite graduating a loaded squad from last year, the Marion County High School volleyball team reeled off a second district title in as many years on Tuesday of last week against Taylor County in a repeat of last year's title game.

"I did have serious doubts at the start of the season if we could accomplish another district title," Lady Knights Head Coach David Hibbard said. "There was no question we had the talent but our experience level would be the deciding factor. We played a tough schedule this year and that toughened us up for tournament play. I can't describe how proud I am of these young ladies for developing into a team capable of winning the title again. To give Taylor credit, they came ready to play and we definitely had to earn this title."

The Lady Cards and Lady Knights scratched and clawed their way through the first set, changing leads often and neither team gaining more than a three point advantage. The Lady Knights came out on top 27-25.

In the second set it was more of the same.

"The Knights started set two strongly even with both teams making errors. With the score 8-8, the Knight offense finally kicked into gear. Two kills from Shelby Howard, two kills from Shelby Mattingly, and an ace and a kill from (Brittany) Burnside put the Knights in front 17-12. From there, it looked like the Knights would cruise to an easy win. But then three Knight errors got the Cards back in the set as Taylor took an 18-17 lead. Tied at 20 again, it was time for Howard and setter Natalie Buck to take over. A block and a kill from Howard followed by three straight service aces from Buck and another kill from Howard clinched the match for the Knights," Hibbard said.

The Lady Knights won the match 25-21, claiming their second title.

"This was definitely the most exciting district final we have ever been a part of," Hibbard said.

"Set one was about as evenly matched as two teams could be. The area of which I am most proud is our ability to shrug off our mistakes to play the next point and keep our focus on the final goal: winning the district title. Two of our seniors did what seniors are supposed to do and stepped up to finish off sets. Shelby Howard and Nat Buck played their best ball when it counted and helped seal our win. This win was a credit to our great team play because everyone contributed to the win."

On Monday night of last week, the Lady Knights cruised to a 2-0 (25-9, 25-6) victory over Campbellsville High School.

"I expected us to play well tonight but did not expect us to totally dominate like we did," Hibbard said. "I think Campbellsville played with some jitters but our team stayed focused and our play got stronger as the match went on. This was one of the most solid opening round tournament wins we have ever had."

Seniors Shelby Howard and Natalie Buck and junior Brooklyn Burnside made all-district tournament team.

The Lady Knights move on to face LaRue County on Tuesday night at Green County High School in the first round of the Fifth Region tournament. The Lady Knights and the Lady Hawks split the season series, with each team winning at home.

"They are very athletic, strong defensively and play aggressive volleyball," Hibbard said. "We will really have to pick up our defense to win and put consistent pressure on their defense to keep them from attacking us. Serve receive will be a key for us to get into our offense and put that pressure on their defense. If we can do that, we have a great shot to win."

If the Lady Knights win, they play the winner of the Elizabethtown/Bethlehem game at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Green County High School.