MONTICELLO — After missing regionals for the past two seasons, Lincoln County’s volleyball team was looking for more than a one-and-done return. And the Patriots got it.
Lincoln bowed to Burgin during the regular season, but the Patriots weren’t intimidated in a rematch Tuesday as they ousted the Bulldogs 25-18, 25-23 in the 12th Region Tournament quarterfinals at Wayne County.
“That’s why we’re here,” Lincoln coach Amanda Massey-Wiles said. “We’re here to win, and we just wanted to play our best. We wanted to show how well we could play.”
Lincoln (23-10) dominated the first set of the match, leading by as many as 12 points before Burgin rallied late to narrow the gap. The Bulldogs got as close as 24-18 before Amanda Conway delivered a game-ending kill.
“The first match we were heavily in control. We had a huge lead for quite some time,” Massey-Wiles said. “We’re proud of how our offense executed. Our girls worked really well together tonight.”
Burgin coach Maggie McKnight said she didn’t know why her team got off to such a slow start in the regional opener.
“I don’t know if it was jitters or just nerves or excitement, but something did not click for us at the beginning of the first game,” McKnight said. “We managed to turn it around, I think, about halfway through and started to play better. Still not what I would consider our peak performance, but really improved upon how we started that match.”
There was no blowout start in the second set. Burgin (24-10) challenged Lincoln closely, staying within one to two points before falling 25-23.
The Bulldogs came oh-so-close to forcing a third game. Burgin went up 23-22 off a Liz Marcinek kill only to see the game in another tie after Kaelin May’s serve went out of bounds.
Lincoln moved ahead 24-23 after Carrie Smith’s serve deflected out of bounds off a Burgin player, then the Patriots saw their fate sealed when Burgin’s Lindsey Monson hit into the net to end the game.
“I think that Burgin kind of regrouped and picked up steam and so it took us a minute to get adjusted the second game,” Massey-Wiles said. “They came back on us but we did adjust and we worked well together.”
McKnight said she was confident in her team’s ability to rally right up until the final point.
“We’ve got a lot of spirit and a lot of fight. And I really think we showed that at the end of that first game and in the second,” she said. “I know that they are going to battle for every point and fight for every win. It just wasn’t quite enough tonight.”
Massey-Wiles was forced to make a change in her starting lineup just moments before Tuesday’s start after Breyanna Hoover broke her nose.
“We had another injury right before the game. Breyanna broke her nose during warmups and is off to the doctor,” Massey-Wiles said.
Kendra Mullins, a sophomore, stepped into Hoover’s position, and Massey-Wiles credited her for a job well done.
”Kendra Mullins played in her (Hoover’s) place and did a great job. She just fit right in and worked hard. She was new to the lineup but definitely was not a weak link,” she said.
Mullins had two of Lincoln’s three aces in the win.
Lincoln also had 13 kills, with four delivered by Vanessa Conley.
Lincoln, which came into the region as 45th District runner-up, advances to the semifinals tonight to play 48th District champion Southwestern (30-8) at 7:30 p.m. Southwestern advanced with a 25-19, 25-8 win over host Wayne County.
“Our girls worked hard and played really well together tonight but they can do even better, and that’s something we’ll work on between now and the next game,” Massey-Wiles said. “It’s one game at a time, and we want to keep winning.”
For 46th District champion Burgin, the season is now over. While most teams are disappointed after elimination, McKnight said her team is taking its second straight first-round loss extremely hard.
“It’s especially hard for us,” she said. “This is Burgin’s fourth year as a program, so this year’s seniors started this program. It’s a little harder, I think, than last year. We just don’t want to see the season end. We want to keep playing.”