The LaRue County Lady Hawks had the Green County Lady Dragons on the ropes.
A second-set victory gave the second-seeded Lady Hawks momentum after top-seeded Green County breezed its way through the first game.
But Kali Hedgespeth wasn’t going to let her team’s dominance of the 18th District end Tuesday night. A sophomore outside hitter, Hedgespeth had 15 kills in the last two sets as Green County knocked off LaRue County, 3-1 (25-14, 24-26, 27-25, 25-16) in the 18th District Volleyball Tournament championship at Caverna.
Hedgespeth finished with a match-high 25 kills for Green County (30-5), which won its 10th straight district title – and seventh in a row over LaRue County.
“They were just leaving obvious holes and they weren’t down and ready to move,” Hedgespeth said. “I knew that if I just placed it somewhere quick, they weren’t going to react fast enough. I was just ready to play. I just put it away.”
After LaRue County (20-10-1) rallied from an 11-4 deficit to win the second set, Hedgespeth started and ended the third game with kills. Tied at 25, Hedgespeth had back-to-back kills to breathe new life into her team after a controversial call on a serve.
Her play was even better in the fourth set, when she had four kills in a five-point span to help Green County take an 11-4 lead.
“She was just being smart,” LaRue County junior middle hitter Ivy Brown said of Hedgespeth. “If our blockers were there, she would just tip it over the net. If they weren’t there, she was swinging.”
And after the Lady Hawks pulled within 20-15 on an ace by senior middle hitter Haley Holt and a Lady Dragon attack error, Hedgespeth had consecutive kills to end that rally.
Longtime LaRue County coach Ben Schell said Hedgespeth was just taking advantage of the Lady Hawks’ rotations at the net.
“We have about three rotations where we don’t have a big block on the right side, and they took advantage of it,” he said. “I challenged the blockers to step up and block her, and not let her keep swinging. I think we did a better job of that in the fourth set. She was hard to stop. She’s smart and understands what’s going on in the game. We just didn’t have another blocker up there. If we did, she could have been stopped.”
But LaRue County didn’t have an answer for Green County’s net attack. The Lady Dragons finished with 49 kills.
“I was just really mad (after losing the second set),” Hedgespeth said. “I was ready to come back and fire back at them. I don’t know what happened to us, but we really came back in the third and fourth sets. Our confidence level was back up after the second set.”
After cruising through the first set, it appeared Green County was poised to sweep LaRue County for the second time this season.
But after falling into a seven-point hole, the Lady Hawks woke up. With Brown at the service line, LaRue County scored seven straight points and took a 12-11 lead.
“Ivy went on a good serving run,” Schell said. “It always starts from the serve. “We got Green off-balance by sending bad passes over. I think the same thing could have happened in the fourth set if we had a timeout. I never doubted at all, no matter what the score was, that we could fight back because we had done it before this season.”
The teams exchanged the next eight points before the Lady Dragons opened a 19-16 lead on a Hedgespeth kill.
But again, the Lady Hawks rallied. They tied it at 19 on senior outside hitter Miranda Hornback’s block and took the lead on a kill by Brown. A LaRue County attack error tied the set at 24, but the Lady Hawks won on back-to-back kills from freshman Chloe Owen and Holt.
“The second set, we had a little bit more momentum than we had in the first set,” said Brown, who finished with eight kills, three blocks and two aces. “We just carried it out.”
Their momentum continued in the third set. The Lady Dragons led 20-17 on an ace from Hedgespeth, but LaRue County eventually gained a 22-21 lead on three straight kills from Brown, Holt and Owen.
Green County sophomore Hannah Givens had a kill to tie the game at 23. Owen had another kill for a one-point lead, but the Lady Dragons took a 25-24 advantage on two LaRue County errors.
Green County appeared to have won the set with Givens serving, but her serve was ruled out of bounds after originally being ruled an ace. It didn’t matter in the end, though, as Hedgespeth came through in the clutch with her kills.
“She’s just a very strong and aggressive player, and she sees the floor very well,” longtime Green County coach Lynne Givens said. “She’s able to put it in places were people just aren’t.”
While both teams advance to next week’s 5th Region Volleyball Tournament at Marion County, Schell admitted it would have been nice to end Green County’s run in the district.
Maybe next year.
“We’re fine,” Schell said. “It sucks to lose. It’s not a good thing to lose, especially to a district rival in the championship that was that close and competitive. I told them one goal wasn’t achieved, but now we’ve got a new one. We’ll see who we play in the region, and we’ll prepare for them. It doesn’t matter who we face. If our team plays the way they can for three solid sets, then it doesn’t matter because we can play with anybody.”
ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM. Brown and Holt were joined on the All-Tournament Team by the Green County trio of Hedgespeth, senior Breanna Givens and Kinsy Shofner, Hart County senior Ashley Dale and Caverna senior Reagan Kingrey.