Lexington coach Eric Shick needed to go back to the drawing board with the most important match of the season looming against rival River Bluff for the Class 5A lower state championship Tuesday night at home.
The Wildcats lost setter Katie Koon to a knee injury in Thursday’s sweep of region foe White Knoll. Junior Carter Lane stepped in and the Wildcats never missed a beat in the 3-1 (24-26, 25-22, 25-18, 25-15) victory to earn their second state title appearance with the other coming in 2009.
“To do it after Katie, our starting setter got hurt, Carter stepped up and did a great job,” Shick said. “I was worried coming into this game without Katie, but Carter did great.”
Lexington (35-7) faces Nation Ford in the Class 5A championship Saturday evening at River Bluff at 7 p.m. Nation Ford, the defending state champions, swept Dorman in the upper state final. Lexington and Nation Ford have played twice this season with Nation Ford winning both times.
“At the beginning of the year, I didn’t think it would be with this team,” Shick said. “I thought last year’s team was the team we were going to do it with. It just worked out, this year, that it happened. We’re happy and excited. That was our goal.”
Senior captain and Region 5-5A Player of the Year Layla Sarvis is pleased to be going out with a championship on the line.
“It’s actually really crazy,” she said. “It’s a feeling everyone wants to experience and not everyone gets to do it. We fought together and worked hard. It feels amazing.”
River Bluff and Lexington split the two regular season meetings but the Wildcats had home court advantage thanks to sweeping the contest on Oct. 17.
The Wildcats dropped the first set when River Bluff (36-9) rallied late. There were eight ties and three lead changes in the first set and the Gators trailed 24-21 before scoring the final five points of the set.
The second set ended up being the turning point of the match. River Bluff jumped on top early even though it was tied nine times, Lexington took its first lead at 22-21. They eventually scored the final three points of the set to come to even the best-of-five at one game apiece.
“We felt we gave away the first set,” Shick said. “We had three passing errors, so we knew we gave it away. I told the girls we were still the better team and they just had to believe that, and they did.”
River Bluff coach Bryan Piro thought if his team could have taken a 2-0 lead at that point, all the pressure would have been on the Wildcats.
“We let that second set get away from us,” Piro said. “We were up 20-18 and couldn’t close it out. I think we made four hitting errors in the last five points. That one hurt. If we win that second set, it could have been a little different.”
Senior Phoebe Perkins closed out the match with her 27th kill of the night. She also added a block. Sophomore Halle Michael added 15 kills, three blocks and two aces with junior Addie Childress contributing 7 kills, two blocks and two aces.
“We had to clear our mind and get it together and show out,” Perkins said about losing the first set. “I was playing for my team. They mean a lot to me, they mean the world to me, and I just wanted to be there for them.”