High School Sports

High school volleyball: Tates Creek, Paul Dunbar advance to 43rd District finals

Tates Creek's Lisa Henning, left, and Danielle Merryman celebrated a point against Lafayette in a district semifinal match Oct. 10.  Photo by Matt Goins
Tates Creek's Lisa Henning, left, and Danielle Merryman celebrated a point against Lafayette in a district semifinal match Oct. 10. Photo by Matt Goins LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER

Tates Creek's volleyball players were beyond giddy after beating host Lafayette in the 43rd District semifinals on Wednesday night.

The Commodores, No. 14 in the state, hollered, hugged and high-fived after grinding out a 25-20, 22-25 25-21, 25-21 win over No. 16 Lafayette.

Tates Creek was due a celebration. This was its first district victory since 2005.

The Commodores will play No. 9 Paul Laurence Dunbar in Thursday's 6 p.m. finals. The Bulldogs swept Lexington Catholic 25-12, 25-13, 25-14 in their semifinal match.

The district winner and runner-up advance to next week's 11th Region tournament at Madison Southern.

Tates Creek senior Danielle Merryman was motivated by a heartbreaking loss to Lafayette in last year's district.

"We needed revenge, and I think we gave it to them," she said. "I knew we'd come out and play the game we needed to play if we stayed loud and talked to each other.

"We deserved to win this. I couldn't be happier."

First-year Tates Creek coach Sara Chaffin was impressed by her team's "teamwork, persistence and enthusiasm. Tonight the girls didn't play scared. They played aggressive. I liked that a lot."

Merryman fed sophomore hitter Kendall Beerman for a bunch of kills, trading blistering shots with Lafayette senior hitter Sarah Jenkins.

"But I've got to brag on my team. I've got other girls that can make plays," Chaffin said. "Haley (Summers), Danielle (Merryman) were great, and Macy Reihing, my eighth-grade libero, was picking up everything."

After dropping the first game, Lafayette won the second behind Jenkins, Annie King and Abbie Bowling.

But Tates Creek pulled out close victories in the last two games. After Lafayette pulled to within 21-20 in the fourth, the Commodores pulled away, with Bailey Skaggs delivering the match-point kill.

"Our seniors really battled. I'm real proud of them, and hate to see them go," Lafayette Coach Chris Langston said.

"Kendall Beerman did a really good job, and Merryman put it right where she needed it all night. That really put the pressure on us.

"Sarah (Jenkins) did all she could for us."

The opening semifinal wasn't close.

When Dunbar and Lexington Catholic met in the regular season, the Bulldogs were pushed to the limit before winning in five games.

Dunbar dominated the rematch from start to finish, however, to win its 13th match in a row.

Joia Pollard, Gabbi Thatcher and Olivia Canales were finishers at the net, while Alyssa Gatewood's serving and setting sparked the Bulldogs.

"We wanted to be the most intense team out there," Pollard said. "We wanted to stay hyped. Even when we made mistakes we wanted to stay positive."

Bulldogs Coach Jenni Morgan said "the first game of the district is always a tough match, and I thought we handled the pressure and played as a team really well."

The Bulldogs ended the first game with a 7-0 run, blitzed Lexington Catholic 14-2 midway through the second game, and finished off the Knights with a 10-1 flourish in the finale.

"I tell them, 'You guys gotta go out and play every ball like it's the last ball, and they did that tonight," Morgan said.

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