Lexington Christian's defense did its job, and Alli Evans boomed the big hits at crunch time as the Eagles beat host Lexington Catholic 3-1 in the opening match of the 43rd District volleyball tournament Monday night.
"Catholic is obviously our biggest rivalry and we always come out ready to play against them," Evans said after LCA outlasted the Knights 25-17, 25-18, 23-25, 25-23.
The victory earned LCA a date with No. 7 Tates Creek in Tuesday's semifinals. No. 6 Paul Laurence Dunbar and No. 23 Lafayette will meet in the other semifinal.
Evans, a senior outside hitter who will play college volleyball at Morehead State, had 26 kills against Lexington Catholic. She had 10 of those in the decisive fourth game, including four that helped LCA rally from a 22-19 deficit.
The Eagles looked primed for a sweep after they won the first two games, but Lexington Catholic seized the momentum by winning the third game, and the Knights were just three points away from forcing a fifth before LCA finished strong.
"Once we got down, we had the mentality that nothing can hit the floor, and we played great overall defense," Evans said. "Then the setters and hitters played their part."
LCA Coach Teresa Ford was proud of the way her players didn't buckle under pressure.
"They showed a lot of heart when they were down 22-19," she said. "We called a timeout and got after them a little bit. I asked them, 'How much do you want it?'"
Ford expected nothing less than a fight to the finish against Lexington Catholic, which extended the Eagles to five games in their regular-season meeting.
"It's a struggle for us sometimes against them. With them being our rivals, there's a little bit of a head game going on, too."
But LCA prevailed, thanks to junior Sara Calhoun and eighth-grader Rachel Demarcus setting for Evans, Jade Evanoff, Jordan Woeste and Meredith Ford.
Teresa Ford also praised the back-row defense of Gabby Townsend, Lauren Elder and libero Macy Galloway.
Lexington Catholic first-year coach Ashley Federle thought her players made big strides this season, and showed it in the way they never gave up against LCA.
"Last year they just stopped competing if they were down. This year we fought back even when we were down 2-0. We went point for point with teams and were able to stay in matches a lot longer."
After falling behind LCA 2-0, Federle saw that spunk.
"I think the girls realized it was do-or-die time on the court, and our seniors (Olivia Carter, Catherine Young and Samantha Thomas) stepped it up," she said.
LCA hopes to step it up against Tates Creek, which beat the Eagles three times in the regular season.
"But we played them pretty tight," Evans said. "I think it's our time."