Lexington is still searching for its first volleyball state championship after dropping a 3-0 contest to a dominant Nation Ford squad on the Class 5A state championship Saturday evening.
The Wildcats were making just their second appearance in the state finals and the first since 2009. They couldn’t combat the size of the Falcons upfront and fell in three sets 25-17, 25-20 and 25-12. It’s the second straight championship for Nation Ford.
Lexington coach Eric Shick knew the task his team was facing. The Wildcats had already seen Nation Ford (48-5-1) twice this season, losing both times 2-0. The scores from those matches were 25-16, 25-10 on Aug. 28 and 25-22, 25-16 on Sept. 3.
“It’s so hard to prepare for because we don’t see anyone that big all year long, expect for them,” Shick said. “Not only are they taller hitters, but they’re bigger blockers than we’re used to as well. Our girls jump but are on the shorter side. They do a great job, but that block makes you make mistakes.”
This one wasn’t any closer. The Falcons feature a front line that consisted of 6-foot-5 senior Sophie Fischer, 6-4 sophomore Kennedy Martin and 6-2 sophomore Taylor Atkinson. The tallest player on the Wildcats roster is 6-0 freshman Emily Garner with everyone else being under 6-foot.
Even with the added advantage at the net, Nation Ford (48-5-1) also put on a clinic on service balls and returning. It was an all-around performance by a team that was the prohibited favorite coming into the season after losing just two seniors from last year’s title team.
“They were serving really hard tonight,” Shick said. “They missed a good amount, but they also got a good amount of hard serves we weren’t ready for. It was a faster pace than what we’re used to serve-receive wise.”
If the Falcons ever trailed, it was only briefly. They jumped out early in each set and cruised to the back-to-back titles.
“Our core nucleus was back so to do it again with this group is really special,” Nation Ford coach Carrie Christian said. “What we have on this team is not normal. It’s not normal to have this amount of talent and height on one team. I think that has been difficult for other teams to handle all year. We’ve battled ourselves more than anything this season.”
Shick believes the Wildcats (35-8) learned a lot about what it takes to reach this level going forward.
“We had a lot of young kids that wasn’t ready for the pressure. Hopefully they will have that to fall back on next year,” Shick said. “You hope they learn from it and give them confidence. They’ve been there before and maybe not be as nervous next time. Also know this is the level we want to be at but we’re going to have to practice harder to get back here again.”