Paul Laurence Dunbar and Tates Creek flashed the fight and the flair of top-10 volleyball teams while sweeping to victory in the 43rd District semifinals Tuesday night at Lexington Catholic.
No. 6 Dunbar dominated No. 23 Lafayette 25-15, 25-10, 25-13 in the nightcap.
"This was probably the best game we've ever played together," Bulldogs senior libero Hope Gassett said. "We got the ball up and put it down. We were constant and consistent."
No. 7 Tates Creek overcame its customary slow start to get by Lexington Christian 25-21, 25-19, 25-13 in the opener.
"We do that most games. We get down but always fight back," Commodores senior hitter Haley Summers said. "And once we get started there's no stopping us."
Tates Creek, which has never won a district tournament title, will face defending champion Dunbar in Wednesday's 7 p.m. finals.
Dunbar Coach Jenni Morgan couldn't have been happier about her team's performance against Lafayette.
Everything clicked for the Bulldogs. Gassett and her teammates were tireless on defense; Olivia Canales, Alyssa Molden, Rachel Brown and Jenna Mulert were effective at the net; and Alyssa Gatewood did her job as setter.
"We played well in every aspect of the game," Morgan said. "We were very focused, and we executed what we talked about in practice the last couple of days. Everybody played well for us."
Lafayette, led by seniors Chandler Kinley, Morgan Allen and Morgan Johnson, never could sustain a run against the Bulldogs.
Morgan was proud of the way her team performed in what she called the toughest match of the season — the district semifinals.
"I commend every player who plays in this round. It's the worst pressure."
The Bulldogs couldn't have handled it any better.
"It's nice to see them so relaxed and playing so well with so much riding on it," Morgan said.
"It's a very good time to be peaking," she said.
It was business as usual for Tates Creek in the first semifinal. The Commodores got off to a sluggish start and fell behind LCA 12-6 before getting their game in gear.
Tates Creek Coach Sara Chaffin has seen it all season. It's almost as though her players relish being behind so they can fight to catch up.
Summers and junior star Kendall Beerman, along with Julia Loveday, Doris Carter Kendall Lockman and the Reihing sisters (Taylor and Macy), led the Commodores' first-game comeback.
LCA made it tough on them, though. Led by seniors Alli Evans and Jade Evanoff, the Eagles pulled to within 22-21. Tates Creek regrouped to win it 25-21, with the last point coming on an incredibly long rally as both teams kept digging and making improbable returns.
"That's the longest rally I've ever coached or seen. It was absolutely unbelievable," Chaffin said. "We practice chaos in case it happens in a game, and we persevered through that chaos."
The second game was close, too. LCA scored six points in a row to get within 21-19 before Tates Creek pulled it out. The Commodores took the third game in less stressful fashion to push their region-best record to 27-8.
Summers never worried that the Commodores were in jeopardy of being upset.
"I believe in us," she said. "We know we can do it. We all get along really well and care so much. We just want to win and that's what pushes us."
The district winner and runner-up advance to the 11th Region tournament at Western Hills in Frankfort next week.
43rd District Tournament finals at Lexington Catholic
7 p.m.: Dunbar vs. Tates Creek
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com