MOREHEAD West Carter nearly ran Boyd County out of the gymnasium Wednesday night with a 10-0 start to the opening set.
Lady Lions senior Cameron Terry kept a positive mindset after the Lady Comets won Set 1, 25-18.
“I always tell the girls that they haven’t won yet and we haven’t lost yet,” Terry said. “When they are up, you just have to remember, there’s five sets in this game. There was lots of time for us to get on top.”
What followed was a roar from the Lady Lions that West Carter could not match as Boyd County punched its ticket to the 16th Region championship behind a 3-1 (18-25, 25-22, 25-19, 25-18) win.
Warned Terry: “We won Set 2 and then on to Set 3 and I told my girls, if we can do that, so can they.”
Boyd County, though, held on at Rowan County Senior High School.
Following the opening set loss, Boyd County exited the gym halfway into its locker room halfway for a much-needed pep talk. But it was not Boyd County coach Katie Neltner doing the talking.
“Cam has been with me for such a long time and when I turned and looked at her and said, ‘You better get them through those doors and in that hallway,’ she was 88 and out the gate,” Neltner said. “Sometimes you just need to go outside the gym to find a little place to refocus.”
It worked as Boyd County never trailed by more than two points the rest of the way. But getting to that point was more than a challenge than Neltner bargained for.
Emily and Madison Adkins combined for nine kills and four blocks for points at the net in the opening set after Boyd County failed to follow the game plan.
“We didn’t even practice yesterday,” Neltner said. “All we did was watch film and one thing we preached was keep it away from the Adkins sisters. They are such a talented duo and I’ll be darned if every ball they wanted to hit went to them.”
Even more frustrating to Neltner was the fact that her voice was falling on deaf ears.
“Those first 10 points I realized no one was listening to me,” Neltner smiled. “You blow your two timeouts within the first 10 points; I mean, what can you do? I told them, ‘This one is coming from you.’ We brought it back. We are a young team. We only have two upper classmen. We are young and it’s not an excuse, but it is a reason.”
West Carter coach Christie Tackett said the quick start was a must for the Lady Comets.
“It was exciting for us because we knew we had to start strong,” Tackett said. “We don’t play very well from behind and it showed, so we knew we had to do that. (Boyd) worked us very well. They could see the floor a little better tonight than we did, and we held onto our mistakes too long. So proud to be their coach.”
Boyd County took its first lead at 6-5 in Set 2 and never looked back. Audrey Biggs ignited a 15-3 Boyd County run in Set 3 that started the landslide West Carter from which could not get way after an Emma Sparks kill gave Boyd County a 2-1 lead in the match.
Boyd County (29-7) trailed only once in the final stanza, 3-4, after Emily Adkins finished another kill for the Lady Comets (27-12).
West Carter graduates four seniors and turns in one of the most successful runs in program history.
“We worked hard, and we are tired of always being second-best, third-best, fourth-best,” Tackett said. “We were happy with what we were able to do, but of course we wanted more. At the same time, we aren’t going to be ungrateful about our season. We had our first district championship since 2015, which was a goal and we’ve come farther in this tournament than we ever had.”
Boyd County finds itself back in the championship for the second time in as many years but with a different team than last season.
“It means a lot to me being the only senior, and it reminds me a lot of last year’s Boyd County team,” Terry said. “That was what we were kind of known for, digging ourselves out of holes and playing to five sets.”
Neltner said just getting back to the title game is “huge because everyone knows in the region it’s one and done. We have really pushed play for Cam as she’s our sole senior and has been an amazing leader for us. I think playing for a purpose rather than just going through fundamentals, it allows you to do something special even at a young age.”