Paul Laurence Dunbar at first looked primed for its second sweep of Tates Creek this season. Then the Bulldogs looked ready to cede the match to their rivals.
But the 43rd District’s regular-season champs found a way to earn another first-place trophy, rallying from a 2-1 match deficit to win the district tournament title, 3-2, Thursday at Lexington Catholic.
Dunbar won the first round without much trouble. Meredith Phillips set up Eleanor Davis for the decisive kill in set one, during which the defending 11th Region champs looked loose.
They weren’t so in the subsequent games; Tates Creek’s youth-laden roster led most of the way in sets two and three, and matched every Dunbar rally to tie those games, both ending in 25-21 decisions in favor of Creek.
The Bulldogs woke up in set four, dispatching of the Commodores in a wire-to-wire 25-15 victory. They claimed the deciding game 15-9.
“We just made a lot of unforced errors coming out there (after the first set), but Tates Creek played great,” Dunbar Coach Jenni Morgan said. “That fourth set they made one error. ... Hats off to them, they played a great game. The whole thing is surviving and battling, that’s what you’ve got to do.”
The second set might have ended differently if not for a crucial call: Dunbar was flagged with an out-of-rotation violation on a point that would have given it the serve facing a 23-22 deficit. Instead, Tates Creek kept serve with a 24-21 lead that it turned into a win.
“You can never blame an official,” Morgan said. “It’s never an official’s fault. That may have cost us one point but there’s 25 points that are earned in a match and that can’t affect wins and losses.”
Dunbar (26-9) won its fourth straight match over Tates Creek (19-10). Both teams will play in the 11th Region tournament next week at Scott County.
Tates Creek, whose team plays just one senior and relies on several sophomores and freshmen, improved greatly from its first meeting with Dunbar, a 3-0 sweep three weeks ago.
“I think being young we got a little excited and maybe too comfortable, and against a good team like Dunbar you can’t afford to get comfortable because they’re gonna jump back, and that’s what they did,” Tates Creek Coach Sara Martin said.