MOREHEAD The first round of the 16th Region Tournament is not the ideal time to fiddle with your starting lineup.
Boyd County had no choice Monday. Things nonetheless worked just fine because the Lady Lions advanced to the semifinals by eliminating Fleming County, 3-0 (25-17, 25-16, 25-17), at Rowan County’s Warren H. Cooper Gymnasium.
Next for the Lady Lions: West Carter at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
You’d have understood if freshman Sophia Gifford was a jittery Lady Lion. She replaced fellow freshman libero Lyndsey Ekers – who led the team with 502 digs. (Ekers injured her foot last Friday and is gone for the season.)
“We’ve only had one practice to really work on it,” Boyd County coach Katee Neltner said. “(Monday) is kind of another practice, trying to get in the rhythm of that rotation.”
Thing was, Gifford was angst-averse.
“I was excited because I’ve been playing back row for a long time, and I love doing it,” Gifford said. “It’s my favorite thing to do.”
Good thing Boyd County’s Emma Sparks and Cam Terry woman-ed the front line. They finished with 10 and nine kills, respectively.
What was more, the Lady Lions have not lost a set in four matches since a straight-set setback to Russell.
“That’s amazing to me; I didn’t know that,” Sparks said.
The Lady Lions won each set pretty much the same way – they watched Fleming County lead early and then reeled in the Lady Panthers.
Fleming County coach Sarah Besenti said her team grew lax after every lead disappeared.
“I feel like we kinda shut down a little bit,” Besenti said. “(Boyd County is) tough mentally.”
In the first set, Boyd County’s 6-4 lead became 9-8, Fleming County. The Lady Panthers pulled to within 19-16 before dropping six of the last seven points.
Fleming County (11-22) opened the second set with a 6-1 run and later led 9-4. It wasn’t enough – Boyd County uncorked an 11-5 streak that eventually gave the Lady Lions a 19-14 advantage.
The third time something happens, you usually have a trend – it’s what happened in Monday’s third set when the Lady Panthers jumped ahead 9-3 and later 11-7.
Enter Terry. She smacked two aces in three serves to tie the set at 11-all.
Wait, there was more.
Carly Mullins’ dink over Fleming County’s front line, Sparks’ hit through a Lady Panther double-team block and kills from Sparks, Audrey Biggs and Morgan Lewis eventually put Boyd County ahead, 21-17.
Terry’s kill, a Fleming County mishit and Sparks’ coup-de-grace kill clinched the win.
Boyd County (28-7) and West Carter split their two regular season meetings – each won on its home floor.