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By JOSH CLAYWELL firstname.lastname@example.org
CECILIA — Elizabethtown High School junior Katie Meek admits she gets a little nervous the first time she steps to the service line in a volleyball match for the Lady Panthers.
After that? Meek is as smooth as silk.
With the Lady Panthers trailing Washington County by seven in the first set of the 5th Region Volleyball Tournament’s first quarterfinal at Central Hardin, Meek served during an 11-0 run to lead Elizabethtown to a 26-24, 25-18 win over the Commanderettes on Monday.
“She got all her serves in, and that was what we needed,” Elizabethtown coach Tim Hinkle said. “That shows me a lot that she can handle that pressure in a situation like that.”
The Lady Panthers (31-6) were in dire straits when Meek stepped to the service line.
Elizabethtown held a 10-9 lead over Washington County (15-17-1) before senior middle hitter Morgan Thomas staked the Commanderettes to a 17-10 advantage.
“I really can’t explain what was going on,” said Meek, who finished with five aces on 18-of-18 serving. “It was just nerves, I guess. But I’m glad we got it fixed.”
Meek served four aces, freshman middle hitter Darian Ditto had two kills and a block and Washington County committed four attack errors during the run which ended with an Elizabethtown attack error.
“We just kept over-passing everything,” said Elizabethtown sophomore outside hitter Brittany Daniel, who had six kills. “Everybody just made mistakes and we need to not let that effect how we play.”
After the Lady Panthers took a 24-19 lead on a Commanderette attack error, Washington County middle hitter Olivia Thompson tied the set at 24-24 behind an ace and three Elizabethtown miscues.
But Elizabethtown sophomore outside hitter Denisha Nichols and freshman setter/right-side hitter Mary Beth Russell each had a kill to end the first set.
“I think we’re a real good come-back team,” Daniel said. “Mentally, we weren’t ready today. But we got our act together and got our points back.”
That was bad news for Washington County, which closed its season by losing three of its final four matches.
“That run (to put the Commanderettes up 17-10) was huge for our team,” Washington County coach Brett Hudson said. “Like a coach just told me, this is a game of runs. We got on that run and we were excited. I was really proud of how we fought. It’s just a momentum game. That’s the way it goes.
“You just never know. We could have scored the next seven points and been done with the set.”
The Lady Panthers opened the second set by scoring seven of the first nine points. The Commanderettes cut the lead to 7-5 on an ace by senior setter Brittany Curtsinger and a Lady Panther attack error, but Elizabethtown pulled away and never relinquished its lead.
Washington County trimmed the lead to five points four times, but could never pull closer.
With the Lady Panthers leading 13-8, Ditto came up with a thunderous kill to give Elizabethtown a huge boost of momentum.
“She played really good in the second game,” Daniel said of Ditto, who finished with six kills. “I think she did really good. She’s our go-to hitter and it’s good to have someone to depend on.”
The Lady Panthers pushed their lead to 22-13 before the Commanderettes made one last attempt at another comeback.
Washington County cut the lead to 24-18 on a kill by junior middle hitter Clare Smith, but senior outside hitter Sarah Teater’s ensuing serve hit the net.
“We played a lot better the second set,” Hinkle said. “But we still had some problems communicating. We’ve got a lot to work on to get ready for the winner (Green County) of this next match.”
Elizabethtown advances to face Green County at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the tournament semifinals. The Lady Dragons (31-5) advanced with a 25-15, 25-16 win over Taylor County (14-14).
The teams met once in the regular season with homestanding Green County beating Elizabethtown on Oct. 9, 25-17, 25-16.
“I’m really excited for Wednesday night,” Meek said. “I’m sure it will be a good game.”
Josh Claywell can be reached at 505-1752