"We came mentally prepared, and physically the girls followed through. I'm proud of them."
These were the first district wins for Lincoln (6-14, 2-0 43rd District) since 2003, ending a string of 10 consecutive losses to district foes Boyle and Casey County.
Even though Boyle (3-18, 0-2) doesn't have the team it had a year ago, senior Alissa Ellis said this win was significant in large part because it didn't come easy for Lincoln. Most of the few wins the Patriots have had have been walkovers; this one was far from that.
"This is by far our biggest win, because it's the hardest we've had to work for one," Ellis said.
A Boyle team in dire need of a victory led four times in the second and final game, the last at 22-21 before Lincoln scored four straight points to finish off the Rebels.
Disappointing night for Rebels
It became another disappointing night for Boyle, which has lost 10 straight matches since its last win Aug. 24. Coach Dana Stigall said she was pleased that the Rebels showed some fight in the second game but disappointed that they didn't in the first.
"One of the girls asked another girl tonight, have they just accepted losing?" Stigall said. "I'm having a hard time as a coach understanding. You play Lincoln County in your own gym, and we're starving for a win, why there wouldn't be more excitement in the first game. Why not be excited?
"And even in the second game when we tied it up, I was surprised that it took saying something like, 'Girls, come on, you're in this,' to create excitement. More of that needs to be internal."
Boyle never challenged in the first game after Lincoln raced to a 6-0 lead. The Rebels took their first lead at 11-10 in the second game, which included nine ties and six lead changes.
Rori Middleton served for four straight points to give Boyle its largest lead at 15-11, and three straight unreturned serves by Stephanie Brushway gave the Rebels a 20-18 lead.
"We had to calm down," Ellis said. "We were getting too jumpy and uptight."
Lincoln came back with three straight points, taking a 21-20 lead on an ace by Dustyn Eckler. And after Boyle regained a 22-21 edge, the Patriots tied the match thanks to an impressive dig by Ellis and took the lead for good on a Morgan Brown ace when her serve clipped the net and fell into Boyle's court.
Patriots have made a lot of progress
Massey, who became Lincoln's fourth head coach in five years when she took over the team this summer, said the Patriots have come a long way since the start of summer practice. They lost their first three matches and didn't crack the win column until 2 1/2 weeks into the season, and while they went 0-5 in last weekend's Lafayette Invitational, they lost seven of their 10 games by three points or less.
"We had to wait a while for our first win, but they're really gelled together and they've learned how to finish games," she said. "They've always had the talent and they've always had the ability, it's just learning how to work together as a team to get a complete finish. (Boyle) fought hard, but we were able to finish. That's something we've been working on."
And it's something Stigall said Boyle needs to work on some more.
"I'm disappointed they didn't hold on to the lead (in the second game)," Stigall said. "There were mental errors and playing errors that turned the score around." Stigall said she worries that the mentality of her team is changing.
"It's frustrating because this is a different season than we've had, but I do have some seniors on the team that have been winners," she said. "Maybe it's that we don't know how to lose and then bounce back from it."