CANNONSBURG - For three sets on Thursday night at Boyd County High School, the Lions and West Carter Comets went back-and-forth.
Boyd County ultimately came out on top with a 3-1 victory (25-16, 20-25, 25-22, 25-9) after they ran away with the match in the fourth set.
“We got a little frustrated towards the end, we started to break down a little bit and couldn’t recover from it,” West Carter coach Christie Tackett said. "We had some good things happen tonight but we have some weak areas we need to work on, and Katee (Neltner) is real good at finding those.”
The two are no stranger to one another, as they met in last year’s 16th Region tournament semifinals in Rowan County, a 3-1 Boyd County win.
Both teams were atop the final region standings in 2019, with the Lions finishing 29-8 and West Carter posting a school record for wins with a 27-12 mark.
Boyd County honored their lone senior Abby Baker prior to the match. Baker notched her 1,000th career assist last season, and finished with 757 dishes in her junior year.
The Lions also honored the Comets five seniors of Peyton Steagall, Madison Adkins, Milea Arrowood, Macie Inskeep and Kenzie Hay.
As the action began on the floor, West Carter jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on a Steagall ace and Rebecca Stevens block.
The Lions then responded to take the next eight of nine points. Boyd County later jumped out to a 22-11 advantage, but the Comets would not be turned away lightly.
West Carter pulled within six at 22-16 on consecutive aces from Arrowood, but Boyd County would score three straight points to win the first set, 25-16.
Set 2 remained tightly contested, as the largest lead for either side was five for the Comets. West Carter led late 21-16, but Boyd County rallied for three points in a row.
Tackett called for timeout with the score standing at 21-18, and her team responded to take the set as they claimed four of the last five overall points in set two.
Steagall capped off the second set with a kill on an assist from Madison Adkins as the Comets tied the match at 1-1 with a 25-20 win in the second set.
“She’s a pretty strong hitter, her attack has just gotten so much better,” Tackett said. “She was a right side for us last year and we moved her outside, we lost all of our outsides last year.
“We’ve moved her outside and she’s just blossomed out there, she’s really tough.”
The Lions were hot out of the gates in the third set as they took a 10-4 lead early on after an Emma Sparks kill. West Carter was able to pull within one several times throughout the third set before ultimately bowing out 25-22.
Sophomore Carly Mullins and freshman Audrey Biggs played a key role down the stretch of the third set. Mullins had three straight kills after Boyd County took a 20-17 lead, then Biggs had the set-winning kill to put the Lions ahead 2-1 in the match.
Like Steagall, Mullins is also making the move to a new spot on the floor.
“Carly, she’s solid, she’s adjusting to a new position,” Neltner said. “The past few years she’s played right side, and I just moved her to outside this year so she’s adjusting but when she’s hot, she’s hot.”
Biggs was able to expose an area of West Carter’s team that hasn’t fully developed in the young 2020 campaign after the graduation of middle hitter Emily Adkins.
“Audrey is a big middle,” Neltner said. “She has the power, and she has the ability to jump and get on top of the ball, so really she can put it on the ten foot line any time she wants.
“Those are hard to return, you’ve got to give it to West I was impressed with the defense over there because Audrey got picked up quite a few times.”
While Neltner praised West Carter’s defense for their efforts at times during the match, Tackett knows there are still some points to focus on in that regard.
“We’re trying to fill those weak areas from graduation and we’re still learning,” Tackett said. “It’s the third game, and we’re just trying to learn from our mistakes and find our weaknesses and build on them.”
Boyd County ran away with the match in the fourth set as they topped the Comets 25-9, thanks to seven kills from sophomore Emma Sparks.
“When she’s on, she’s on,” Neltner said about Sparks. “She is just solid all the way around.”
Sparks was a factor in five of Boyd County’s last 11 points as she racked up kills down the stretch of the game, as the Lions (1-1) recorded their first win of the year.
Boyd County returns to the court on Saturday as they host the Lady Lions Invitational in a field of five total teams, four of which played in their respective region tournaments in 2019.
West Carter (2-1) drops their first match of 2020. They return home to Olive Hill where they host Raceland on Saturday.