It took a few seconds for Tates Creek's volleyball team to grasp the wonderful reality that it had won the 43rd District title Wednesday night at Lexington Christian Academy.
The Commodores were clinging to a 14-12 lead over two-time defending district champion Paul Laurence Dunbar in the fifth set of the finals. They needed one point to win the district for the first time in school history.
Tates Creek senior star Kendall Beerman rose up and blistered a return that she hoped would end the match. But her shot sailed beyond Dunbar's back line.
Beerman and her coach, Sara Chaffin, said they were gathering themselves for the next play when they noticed some Tates Creek players jumping up and down in celebration on the court.
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One of the Dunbar players had been called for being in the net, giving the Commodores the winning point.
Chaffin finally realized what had happened.
"Everybody was going crazy, so I went crazy right with them," she said.
Beerman joined the craziness, too, as the Commodores and their fans hugged, high-fived and shed tears of joy.
Tates Creek, rated 13th in the state, had to play great to beat No. 5 Dunbar 17-25, 25-19, 15-25, 25-19, 15-12.
The victory avenged losses to the Bulldogs in the district finals the last two years.
Beerman, an Indiana signee, had a monster game. The 6-foot-2 outside hitter had 34 kills, and added six aces with her wicked serve.
"Kendall told me before the game, "I live for games like this,'" Chaffin said. "So I knew mentally she really wanted to go for it."
Beerman said she fed off the big-game atmosphere: "The crowd was crazy. It was just really intense, two really good teams. I just love it because that's when I play my best and with the most energy."
Micaela Magsig, Tates Creek's only other senior, came through with an ace to give her team its 14-12 lead in the fifth set. "It was a lot of pressure," she said. "I didn't even look at the coach. I just wanted to get it over the net."
Tates Creek, a notoriously slow-starting team, lost the first set to Dunbar, but that didn't affect the Commodores.
"Our burning desire carried us through," Magsig said. "Everybody contributed, and we had great coaching.
"I wasn't surprised we pulled it out. This is the most competitive team I've ever played on."
Doris Carter, a sophomore outside hitter, had 12 kills and was an emotional leader.
"When she's fired up, we're fired up," Chaffin said.
Macy Reihing, a sophomore libero, had 23 digs. "Macy stepped up so many times and took the second ball and put it right where our hitters needed it," Chaffin said.
Julia Loveday contributed key blocks and kills. Lindsey Wilkins had a timely block in the fifth set. Mary Catherine O'Neil ran the offense, and freshman Lauren Nalley delivered an ace when the Commodores needed a lift.
Dunbar was led by junior Leah Edmond (23 kills) and senior Olivia Canales (19 kills), along with the steady play of Mary Martin, Katie Shunk, Rachel Brown and Francesca Macchiavellio.
"I thought both teams fought really hard and played well," Dunbar Coach Jenni Morgan said. "You've got really competitive athletes that hit really hard and go at each other. Both teams can take a lot from this match."
Both teams move on to next week's 11th Region tournament at Henry Clay. The Blue Devils, who won the 42nd District with a three-set sweep of Scott County, are four-time defending region champs.