PIKEVILLE Christie Tackett and Jason Clark both spotted the difference in Monday’s All “A” Classic semi-state volleyball match between West Carter and Pikeville immediately.

“We held our own fairly well and managed to stay close in three of four sets,” Lady Comets coach Tackett said. “I felt the difference in the game was our inability to defend the outside attack from (Pikeville’s Kaylee) Wells.”

With West Carter down a set but leading Set 2 23-20, the Lady Panthers began targeting Wells offensively.

“We rotated Kaylee up to the front and (setter) Riley (Tavis) just got her the ball about four or five times in a row,” said Clark, Pikeville’s coach. “She was able to put stuff down and McKinlee Potter was able to serve (effectively).”

Pikeville closed the second set on a 5-0 run to win it en route to a 3-1 (25-20, 25-23, 24-26, 25-17) victory in the match.

The Lady Panthers are making their first trip to the All “A” state round of eight. They’d been bounced in pool play at Eastern Kentucky University the last two years, but the small-school tournament did away with that format this year in favor of a semi-state round of 16.

Tavis set the school record for assists on Monday night, Clark said, surpassing 3,200 in her career. Wells, the daughter of Rowan County alumnus and University of Pikeville athletic director Kelly Wells, is the program’s career leader in kills.

“Those two go together like peanut butter and jelly,” Clark said of Tavis and Wells before pausing to chuckle at his own joke. “They’re both really good by themselves, but then you put them together and it makes an extremely great sandwich.”

Monday’s contest matched small-school champions of neighboring regions who have more than held their own against everyone they’ve played. Pikeville improved to 15-0. West Carter became only the third team to take a set off the Lady Panthers all year — the other two are Russell and Floyd Central — and the first to do so in 16 days.

The Lady Comets (13-2) hadn’t dropped a set in 14 days and had an 11-match win streak dating back to their third outing of the season snapped.

Both coaches said the atmosphere at T.W. Oliver Memorial Gymnasium — another product of the new tournament format — played a role.

“The atmosphere heavily favored the home team and we haven’t been used to that kind of crowd before,” Tackett said. “Overall, I’m happy with my team’s effort after we settled down.” West Carter’s coach also credited Pikeville’s team strength and wished the Lady Panthers well at All “A” State.

Added Clark: “It was definitely an advantage having it at home, there’s no doubt.”

Pikeville meets First Region champion Ballard Memorial in the round of eight on Saturday morning in Richmond. The Lady Bombers beat Second Region champ Caldwell County, 3-2 (26-24, 25-16, 17-25, 22-25, 22-20) on Friday in sectional play.

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