The Meade County Lady Waves made some major changes after their four-set loss to the Elizabethtown Lady Panthers on Aug. 24.
They paid off quickly as the Lady Waves won their second Hilliard Lyons Fall Classic title in the past three season, beating the Lady Panthers in three sets in the gold division championship match, 16-25, 27-25, 25-10 on Saturday at Charlie Rawlings Memorial Gymnasium.
“They play with a lot of heart,” Elizabethtown coach Bart Catlett said.
Some of the changes were tactical, like adjusting the rotation to showcase the team’s strengths and hide its weaknesses.
Mostly, though, Coach Morgan Benham just got the Lady Waves to buy in and believe they are a better team.
Following that Elizabethtown match, Meade County ran off six straight wins – two during the week, three in pool play and a semifinal win over the John Hardin Lady Bulldogs – before taking on the Lady Panthers again.
The big change was spacing seniors Jo Cannady and Sydney King out further in the rotation, so one of the two is on the front row at all times.
It means Cannady sometimes hits from the back row, but it also means setters Meg Powers and Josie Deibler always have a strong option close by.
“That was a huge adjustment for Morgan,” Catlett said. “They still play the same defense. If you hit at them, they’ll dig it out and they are just scrappy.”
ELIZABETHTOWN. The Lady Panthers were returning champs in their tournament, and they cruised early in the day despite the challenge that comes with hosting.
Catlett had to worry about more than just his team – though it didn’t need much help as it dropped zero sets before facing Meade County – as he helped organize the 16-team event that held matches in the high school and at T.K. Stone and Morningside.
“It’s been a successful day,” Catlett said. “It’s just kind of grown and grown, but I’ve got a lot of good help from the parents and everybody to help put it on.”
Elizabethtown beat Warren Central (25-14, 25-14), McLean County (25-5, 25-12) and Christian County (25-17, 25-17) in pool play to earn the No. 1 seed in the gold division.
Meade County cruised past Barren County (25-6, 25-5) and Murray (25-8, 25-9) before holding of Bowling Green (21-25, 25-22, 15-9) to pick up the No. 3 seed.
The key to the Lady Panthers’ success Saturday was their serving, Catlett said, which has been inconsistent so far this season.
“We served extremely well and each kid has had their own time at serving extremely well,” Catlett said. “When you’re serving tough, you’re keeping the other team out of system which is making it a lot easier to run whatever offense you want to do.”
JOHN HARDIN. The Lady Bulldogs are particularly well-suited for tournament play.
After entering Saturday on a five-match skid, John Hardin pulled out three easy matches in pool play to enter the gold division as the No. 2 seed.
Only Elizabethtown matched John Hardin’s pool-play record of no lost sets before the championship round.
The Lady Bulldogs topped Louisville Whitefield (25-21, 28-26), Ballard Memorial (25-15, 25-16) and Ohio County (25-15, 25-19) to reach the top tournament round.
“It was excellent teams all day,” Coach Walter Hampton said. “The better teams that we play, the more experience that we get, the better we’ll be in the future. … To come out in the gold bracket for the first time in John Hardin’s history, we’re ecstatic.”
That excitement was apparent before, during and after each match as John Hardin improved throughout the day.
The Lady Bulldogs were seeded third in their pool before pulling off upset wins against Whitefield and Ballard Memorial, setting them up for the win over Ohio County and their first trip to the gold division after years of tries in the event.
“We’ve been doing well,” Hampton said. “We fought hard in the last couple of matches that we had, it just didn’t go our way.
“The world is our oyster. We’ve just got to keep opening up oysters until we find a pearl that fits.”