“It was a good ending,” senior Kaley Jackson said. “We never thought we could do it. So it was a big surprise, it was a good surprise. I’m just happy we made it this far.”
Which was all first-year coach Megan Gatewood could have asked from her team.
“I knew going into this tournament no matter what happened they would do me proud,” Gatewood said. “It was all their hard work, really. They peaked at the exact right moment, and I don’t know what it was. Nothing special happened, it just all started clicking.”
Boyle, which had pretty much rebuilt under Gatewood, never really challenged Southwestern (37-5), although Gatewood was hoping the Warriors’ pregame body language would indicate a letdown.
“We watched their warmup and noticed they looked kind of bored, kind of cocky,” she said. “And we were hoping that meant they would crumble. But it didn’t happen, they played well right to the end. And we didn’t give up either. It was exciting.”
Jackson thought Southwestern would need to play less than its best and Boyle would have to play its best game to get a shot at the win.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen. I was excited to play them just because it was the championship. Regardless of the outcome I was just happy to be here,” she said.
And the Warriors were focused as they opened the first game with 6-2 run, getting aces from Kelsie Adams and kills from Adams, Cassie Thompson and Ashley Montgomery. Southwestern stretched the lead to 11-3 before Boyle made a run and cut it to an 11-7 score.
Kills from Emily Hall and Jackson and a sideout for Boyle cut the Southwestern lead to 12-10, but a kill from Montgomery and two from Thompson helped push the lead back to 16-10. Boyle made it 17-13, but the Warriors ripped off the final eight points, four by kills and two by aces to close out the first game.
In the second game, Southwestern eased out to a 15-6 lead and Boyle never got closer than eight points the rest of the way.
Now the Rebels can look towards next season.
“It’s going to be kind of a similar situation next year. We’re losing three starters, it’s going to be a different coach next year, and it’s going to be a whole new ball game,” said Gatewood, who agreed to coach only one season since she’s going to graduate school to study biology next year.
“I like to think I gave them a pretty good foundation for next year in terms of skills at least. That was my goal going in, I wanted to teach them how to play volleyball. So I think I did that.”
And Jackson, one of three seniors along with Preston and Sterling Martin, said how they ended this season should show future teams to never give up.
“We had so many new girls, and they were kind of seeing how the season was going. They were like, ‘Oh, do we really want to stick this out for next year if this is how it’s going to be?’” Jackson said. “So I think this shows them that even though you might be new, look at what you could end up doing. I’m very proud.”
Kelsie Adams, Southwestern; Randi Burke, Burgin; Erin Cottrell, Southwestern; Leeann Grider, Russell County; Emily Hall, Boyle County; Emma Hogue, Casey County; Megan Holderman, Boyle County; Morgan Hunt, Rockcastle County; Kaley Jackson, Boyle County; Sydney Jackson, Wayne County; Ashley McQueary, Casey County; Rachel Nicely, Rockcastle County; Cassie Thompson, Southwestern; Emily Wilson, Garrard County; Makayla Wilson, Southwestern.