Paul Laurence Dunbar will try to three-peat as 43rd District volleyball champion Wednesday night, and for the third year in a row its opponent in the title match will be Tates Creek.
Dunbar had no trouble getting to the finals. The Bulldogs, rated fifth in the state, swept Lexington Catholic 25-10, 25-11, 25-18 in Tuesday night's semifinals. It was Dunbar's 12th consecutive victory over the Knights since 2007.
Bulldogs Coach Jenni Morgan thought her team looked sharp in its postseason opener.
"Every point, every game matters this time of year," she said. "You've got to come out, play together, and play hard from beginning to end.
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"It was nice to see the girls do that tonight.
Tates Creek had a more difficult test in its semifinal. The No. 13 Commodores lost the first game to host Lexington Christian Academy 25-23, but won out from there, 25-17, 25-15, 25-9.
It was Tates Creek's 11th win in a row over the Eagles since 2007.
Coach Sara Chaffin thought her Commodores' slow start was a combination of LCA playing great defense and serving well, and her own team being anxious.
"It's district, so everybody's nervous," she said. "It's just those jitters you have, and it took us the whole first set to shake them off."
Tates Creek star Kendall Beerman, who has signed with Indiana, admitted that she and her teammates "freaked out a little bit.
"But we're fine. We got it together. We knew what we had to do and got better every game."
LCA, led by Jordan Woeste and Meredith Ford, never trailed in taking the first game, and jumped to an early lead in the second game.
But Beerman got her big swings going, and with Julia Loveday, Doris Carter and Macy Reihing contributing in their own ways, Tates Creek got on a roll.
The Commodores used a 9-0 run to take control of the second game and they were on their way.
Chaffin said there was no panic in the huddle after Tates Creek lost the first set.
"It was more like, 'Let's refocus.
"We talked about how we needed to play Creek ball, and everyone got back on the same page."
Dunbar, meanwhile, was on the same page from the get-go. The Bulldogs got strong play from standouts Olivia Canales and Leah Edmond, who had their share of big hits, with Mary Martin setting them up. Katie Shunk's serves gave Dunbar a lift.
Canales, who has signed with Texas Christian, said Dunbar had the right mindset from the start.
"We talk about the mental part of the game all the time in practice," she said. "We came out ready to play, and wanted to put Catholic away.
"The energy was great."
Dunbar used a 9-0 run to take a 16-5 lead, and it never relaxed. Edmond, a junior who has already committed to Kentucky, had five kills to spark the early rally.
Canales said the Bulldogs' ability to stay focused is no accident.
"We've obviously improved our defense, running plays and stuff like that," she said. "But I think the biggest thing we've improved on is the mental part of our game."
Dunbar beat Tates Creek in four sets in the 2012 district final, and in five sets last year. The Commodores outlasted Dunbar in five sets three weeks ago, but Wednesday night is the one they really want.
"We're definitely hungry for it," Beerman said. "It's about time we won the district. We really want it and we're ready for it."
■ The three-team 42nd District tournament is Wednesday night at Scott County. The host Cardinals play Bryan Station at 5:30, with the winner moving on to play No. 4 Henry Clay in the finals at 7.
District winners and runners-up advance to the 11th Region tournament at Henry Clay next week.