FRANKFORT — For the second year in a row, Henry Clay and Tates Creek went toe-to-tie in a five-game thriller in the 11th Region volleyball tournament, and for the second year in a row, the Blue Devils escaped with victory.
Henry Clay outlasted the Commodores in the region finals last October by winning the fifth game 18-16. This time around, in the region opener, the No. 10 Devils held on to beat No. 14 Tates Creek 15-12 in the last game.
"That ranks right up there with the epic battles," Henry Clay Coach Dale Grupe said after his team survived the 22-25, 25-20, 25-16, 16-25, 15-12 test at Western Hills.
The city rivals also played a five-game grinder during the regular season.
"Tates Creek really brings their game against us every time we play," Grupe said. "They showed a lot of heart and we showed a lot of heart. We were fortunate to win."
Three-time defending champ Henry Clay advances to play Woodford County in Wednesday's semifinals. The Yellow Jackets swept Madison Southern 25-12, 25-5, 25-14 Monday night.
Henry Clay needed solid play from just about everybody to beat the Creek.
Senior Elle Barnett and junior setter Lynsey Short were consistent throughout the marathon. Olivia Dixon had some key kills, while Haley Longworth and Brittany Ragland were strong on defense.
Henry Clay freshmen Hallie Shelton, Darby Music, Jessica Sunnenberg and Emma Yarber each had their moments, as did eighth-grader Sierra Gray.
Barnett credited teamwork for the victory.
"We were struggling there for a while, but we kept cheering each other on and picking each other up and we got our momentum back," she said. "I was a little nervous, but I tried to act like I wasn't. I tried to keep it cool."
Henry Clay took control in the fifth by breaking out of a 6-6 tie to take a 12-7 lead. Dixon, Music and Shelton each had a kill in the run, and CaLayci Coffey delivered three emphatic points.
"She's definitely the heart and soul of the team," Grupe said of Coffey. "We weren't getting her going early, but she stayed with it and definitely brought the energy.'
The Devils also got a couple of key digs off shots by power hitter Kendall Beerman in the fifth. "When you dig an awesome hitter like that, it's really big," Grupe said.
Tates Creek won the first and third games behind the steady play of hitters Beerman, Haley Summers and Doris Carter, setter Taylor Reihing, and middle blockers Julia Loveday and Kendall Lockman. In the final game the Commodores made a valiant run to close the gap to 13-12, but came up short.
"We played some of the best defense we've played all season, and that excited me a lot," Coach Sara Chaffin said.
"But we had some mental breakdowns in game three, and you can't have that in the region. In the fifth game Henry Clay made some smart plays that rattled us a little.
"But these girls did what they do best — fight. They never gave up, and I couldn't be happier with them about that."