Like most athletes, the Lincoln County High School volleyball team is motivated by a desire to win each time it takes the floor. But the motivation ran a little deeper and a little more personal Monday night.
The Lady Patriots dedicated their game with Boyle County to the memory of middle hitter Samantha Douglas’ father, whose year-long battle with lymphoma ended at age 57 on May 10.
“My dad was a big fan of Lincoln County and he loved the rivalry between Lincoln and Boyle,” Douglas said of her dad who died four months to the day before the game.
Billy Douglas would have loved Monday’s outcome as Lincoln rallied from a first-set loss to beat visiting Boyle County 3-1 (24-26, 25-11, 25-19, 25-22).
“We pulled through and I know he’s smiling on us right now. I know he’s happy because he’s always happy to beat Boyle at anything,” said Samantha Douglas. “It was hard (playing), but knowing I had my teammates behind me, pushed me. It made it a lot easier having them always being there for me.”
Douglas and her Lady Patriots were struggling early on in the 45th District battle, falling behind 15-7 in the first set. Lincoln (6-9, 2-1 45th District) battled back late in the set to get within 23-21. Breyanna Hoover took over service on a side out and back-to-back net points by Vanessa Conley and a misplayed ball by Boyle nosed Lincoln on top 24-23.
Boyle (10-7, 4-1 district) tied the game at 24-all after a Lincoln service error and put away the last two points of the game to take the first set.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been experiencing a lot of slow starts,” Lincoln coach Amanda Massey-Wiles said. “We’ve been working on getting past that, and it’s getting better every time. But I still didn’t like the start of this match.”
Things did get better for Lincoln.
The Lady Patriots never trailed in the second set of the best of five match, opening up a 14-7 lead before putting away the Lady Rebels 25-11. Boyle, which trailed for most of the third set, did manage to ease in front 18-17 only to have Lincoln close with an 8-1 run to win 25-19.
The Lady Rebels threatened in the fourth set, using a 7-0 run to open up a 10-4 lead. Unlike the first set, however, Lincoln didn’t bow to Boyle’s offensive surge. The Lady Patriots answered with a 6-1 run to tie the game at 11-all then held on to take the set 24-22 for the match win.
“We knew we could win this,” Douglas said. “We all had a mind-set that we were going to come in and do it for my dad. We weren’t going to let anything stop us. In the locker room before the game, we were like ‘We’re going to do this for Sam’s Dad.’ We did it for him.”
Massey-Wiles never doubted that her Lady Patriots could rally from their slow start, saying she could see the determination to win on their faces.
“It took us a while to get our feet wet, to get warmed up properly. I was just glad to see us pull it together and execute the way we know how,”¿she said. “What was encouraging for me as a coach, was to see the determination on my girls’ faces. To see them do what they’ve been practicing, do what they’ve been taught and decide. They made the decision not to lose. They weren’t going to accept having what happened in the previous set to continue.”
Even when Lincoln serving errors allowed Boyle to challenge in the fourth set, Massey-Wiles said her team kept its focus.
“We did have a moment where we had to re-gather our momentum, re-gather our minds,” Massey-Wiles said. “It rattled the team a little bit. What we’re proud of is the fact that they were able to calm back down, focus and play.”
“Boyle County is not a school that’s going to hand a win over to you nicely. You have to earn it,”¿she said. “So we had a very serious talk about pushing and working hard and going for a win, and the girls went out determined. They worked hard and really made an impressive comeback.”
Monday’s win avenged an earlier 3-1 loss to Boyle County, Lincoln’s only district loss to date.
“A district match is an important match to win,”¿said Massey-Wiles. “I’m very happy with our turn out tonight. Good effort, quick feet, good work. Hopefully, it’s a precursor to what could happen at district.”