FRANKFORT — Henry Clay and Paul Laurence Dunbar are in familiar territory in the 11th Region high school volleyball tournament — the title match — after sweeping through the semifinals Wednesday night.
No. 10 Henry Clay beat Woodford County 25-12, 25-17, 25-21 for its ninth consecutive victory over the Yellow Jackets since 2004.
The Devils are in the region finals for the 14th time in 16 years, including the last eight in a row. They are three-time defending champions.
"We're very fortunate and very proud," Henry Clay Coach Dale Grupe said. "Getting to the finals may mean as much as winning it. Getting there makes the other teams go through us."
No. 6 Dunbar beat Franklin County 25-21, 25-14, 25-9 to reach the finals for the sixth time in 11 years. The Bulldogs won back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009.
Coach Jenni Morgan said her players "worked very hard for this moment. It's exciting and they deserve it.
"It's a compliment to whatever teams get here because we have a very tough district and a very tough region."
After showing a lapse in focus in its four-game victory over Scott County in the region opener, Dunbar got progressively stronger in its win over Franklin County.
The Flyers, led by Ashleigh Luebbers, Lily Baker and Jennifer Lee, battled Dunbar throughout the first game.
But the Bulldogs picked up their intensity after that. Olivia Canales, Alyson Hatfield, Hope Gassett and Rachel Brown provided the spark.
"We as a coaching staff needed to see them getting better, with some changes we made, as the night went on," Morgan said. "And that's exactly what they did."
Grupe said he was happy with Henry Clay's performance in the semifinals. "Our girls respected Woodford County and played a real solid first couple of games."
The Jackets, led by Adrian Teegarden and Victoria Scott, made it tough on Henry Clay in the third game when they took a 17-15 lead.
But the Devils responded as veterans Elle Barnett, Ca'Layci Coffey and Olivia Dixon keyed a 5-0 run that carried them to a 25-21 clinching victory.
"It was really important to get a match like that and not just roll into the finals," Grupe said. "We had to earn it."
This will be the sixth time since 2003 that the city rivals have met in the region finals.
"When we play Dunbar it's always fun and always competitive," Henry Clay junior setter Lynsey Short said.
Brown, a junior middle hitter for Dunbar, said the Bulldogs remember getting ousted by Henry Clay in the region semifinals last season.
"We're out to get them this year," she said. "As long as we stay together, work together and keep up our intensity, we should be all right."
Dunbar beat the Devils in a five-game match in early September. Morgan expects the finals to be just as close. "It's not going to be over in three (games). It'll be back-and-forth, point-for-point. It's going to be a battle."
11th Region Tournament finals at Western Hills
7 p.m. — Henry Clay (29-9) vs. Paul Laurence Dunbar (28-11)
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.