STANFORD — It was the kind of match Billy Douglas would have loved.
His daughter Samantha knew that, which is why she couldn’t keep from crying Tuesday night after she and her Lincoln County teammates won the 45th District Tournament. Lincoln swept Boyle County in three sets to capture its first district title since 2006, riding the momentum of two significant streaks late in the second set and early in the third to a 25-23, 25-21, 25-13 victory.
It was after the Patriots got their hands on the trophy and after the requisite photos were taken, that Samantha Douglas’ emotions overtook her as she thought of her father, who died May 10 at age 57 after a battle with lymphoma.
“The last time we played Boyle it was right on four months since he’d been gone, and tomorrow is his fifth month he’s been gone. And my dad always loves when Lincoln beats Boyle in anything. Every game we play against Boyle we always do it for my dad. And every time we come out and play like this, I know my dad’s just so proud of all of us and everybody as a team,” Douglas said.
Lincoln (15-14) completed a task it couldn’t get done last year, when it just missed winning a district title.
But coach Amanda Massey-Wiles said the Patriots have been working to be ready for their next opportunity, and last year’s disappointment led to this year’s celebration after they pulled out two close sets, then jumped out to a commanding lead in the third to beat host Boyle (12-21) for the second time in three matches this season.
“It was a really exciting night to watch the girls work really well together as a team and execute the plans that we made all year,” Massey-Wiles said. “The district title has been our goal throughout the season, something that we just missed last year. I think they had the mindset to win tonight and not let anything hit the floor. It was straight determination and straight teamwork.”
Douglas, a middle hitter and one of Lincoln’s five seniors, said it was something else, too.
“We had heart,” she said. “We wanted it, we knew what we had to do to get it, and we did it.”
The Patriots rallied from a 20-16 deficit in the second set, scoring five straight points and six of the last seven.
Then they scored the first seven points of the third set, and that seemed to take the wind out of Boyle’s sails.
“I think it did,” Lincoln middle blocker Arienne Stephens said.
“We just had to push it,” Douglas added. “We always have slow starts, and we’re like, ‘We can’t do it any more. We’ve got to step up and take our ground.’”
Boyle coach Cate Guthrie said the ground Lincoln took was also ground given up by the Rebels.
“I think it was a little bit of both,” Guthrie said. “Lincoln definitely worked their tails off, but a lot of it I feel like we ended up beating ourselves in our own heads, and that’s something we’re going to continue working on. It’s not our last night out.”
Both teams advance to the 12th Region Tournament next week at Mercer County.
Vanessa Conley served during both the 5-0 run in the second set and the 7-0 run in the third, and she had three straight aces in the latter run, when Boyle didn’t put a return in play on the first five points.
“She has stepped up quite often throughout the season to get those runs going and give us the momentum that we want through her serving, especially,” Massey-Wiles said.
Lincoln also got eight blocks and two other kills from Stephens.
Douglas had six kills, including four in the early stages of the third set to help the Patriots extend their lead to 9-1, and Ciara Saylor also had three kills, two aces and a block.