Maggie McKnight thought Burgin could have a nice season coming off a district title and returning a good group of veterans, but even the Burgin coach has been impressed with what her team has been able to accomplish this season.
The Bulldogs are arguably the area’s best team, sporting a 23-9 record and winning the 12th region All “A”¿title. She hopes they can add another regional crown when the postseason begins next week. Burgin plays Mercer County in the 46th District semifinals on Wednesday.
“I am pleasantly surprised at just how strong they have become. We haven't been up against a single team this season that we couldn't compete with,”¿McKnight said. “This group of girls is fundamentally sound and mentally tough. They are not afraid to challenge themselves and play outside their comfort zone to improve their game. These aspects have been a recipe for success this season.”
In just their third season as a varsity squad, Burgin already has had tournament and postseason success. That should pay off when this postseason begins, McKnight said.
“We are going into the district tournament with a healthy confidence. There is additional motivation this year to repeat as district champions. However, it comes with additional pressure. We know that Mercer, Danville, and Garrard are all working hard to prepare as well; they will come ready to play,” she said.
“We are going to have to do a better job of controlling the ball and keeping it in play. We will have to minimize the number of unforced offensive errors. We cannot afford to give points away with missed serves or hitting errors.”
But just another district title won’t be good enough for the Bulldogs.
“Our sights are on making it past the first round of the regional tournament. We expanded our schedule this year to see and play more regional teams in the regular season,”¿she said. “I've watched our girls perform against teams who have more experience, more height, and more power than we do. We will draw on our ability to cover the court and hustle on defense to win.”
One issue for the Bulldogs is how much time they will have off between matches. Winning the All “A”¿title and playing in the state tournament forced Burgin to cancel some late-season matches. Burgin will have had 11 days off between its last match and the district semifinals.
“Obviously, I am concerned with the long break between the Bluegrass Conference Tournament and the district tournament,”¿she said. “We are in the gym on a daily basis in an attempt to keep our skills sharp, but there is a mental aspect that will be affected by not competing. My hope is that we will be able to come out with intensity and enthusiasm regardless of the time off.”
A capsule look at the upcoming postseason volleyball play involving local teams.
Players to Watch
Emily Hall, Boyle County — The Rebels’ hitter has had a solid senior season, and will need to keep playing well if the Rebels want to get back to the regional tournament.
Randi Burke, Burgin —¿The junior hitter has been a force for the Bulldogs. She will need to keep up her strong play for the Bulldogs to achieve their goal of getting past
Ashley McQueary, Casey County — The Rebels’ senior middle blocker has helped lead a young Casey team (two seniors) to 18 wins, and the defending 45th District champions are hoping for more this year.
Carrie Smith, Lincoln County — The senior hitter has helped Lincoln to its best record ever, and she has the athleticism and experience to get the top-seeded Patriots a district title.
Teams to Watch
Burgin — The defending 46th District champions have experience and play a fundamentally sound game. The Bulldogs have also gone 14-1 against teams in the 12th region.
Southwestern — The three-time defending regional champions are 6-0 against regional competition and are the favorites to hoist the trophy against.
Pulaski County — The Maroons are 226-6 and have gone 12-1 against regional competition, losing only to Southwestern.
Lincoln County — After a slow start, the Patriots have won 11 of 12 and are at 22-9 heading into the postseason.
Best First-Round Matchup — Garrard County vs. Danville, 46th District:¿The Golden Lions have won all four meetings this year, but the last two matches have each gone to three games. There’s no reason to think that won’t happen again.
District Winners — 45th District, Lincoln County; 46th District, Burgin; 47th District, McCreary Central; 48th District, Southwestern.
District Tournament Schedule
Monday, Oct. 10
45th District Tournament at Lincoln County: Semifinal, Boyle County vs. Casey County, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 11
45th District Tournament at Lincoln County: Championship, Boyle County-Casey County winner vs. Lincoln County, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 12
46th District Tournament at Burgin: Semifinals, Mercer County vs. Burgin, 6 p.m.; Danville vs. Garrard County, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 13
46th District Tournament at Burgin: Championship, Danville-Garrard County winner vs. Mercer County-Burgin winner, 7 p.m.