HEBRON ESTATES - Putting together a splendid first game on Monday in the opening round of the Eighth Region Tournament at North Bullitt, the Bullitt Central Lady Cougars came close to doing what no volleyball team in the region has been able to do since 2004 - win a game from an Oldham County team.
Playing as well as they had all season at the net and passing well, the Lady Cougars had a 25-24 lead in the first game and were within a sideline save of getting the point to win the game. North Oldham, which had won the 30th District title the week before, made that big save and then won the next two points to secure a 27-25 win.
With the emotion sucked out of the building with the finish of the first game, Bullitt Central could not regain their swagger, losing the second game 25-8 to the Lady Mustangs.
Since 2004, two Oldham County teams have met in the championship match of the Eighth Region Tournament. It was in 2004 that North Oldham lost games to Shelby County and Walton-Verona but they still managed to reach the final where they lost to Oldham County.
The last time an Oldham County team lost before the final was in 2003 when North Oldham lost in the opening round to Shelby County. Even that Lady Rockets’ team lost to South Oldham in the final.
With that history in mind, Bullitt Central head coach Jennifer Romine knew that her team was in for a tough match on Monday despite the fact that they had not faced the Lady Mustangs this season.
“We really played well in that first game,” Romine said after meeting with her team. “We really hustled.
“We had told the girls earlier that we should come in with the attitude that we have everything to gain and nothing to lose,” the veteran coach added. “They were nervous, but that was their frame of mind.”
The first game is what this Bullitt Central team will always remember. North Oldham has been ranked among the top-25 teams in the state for much of the season, but the Lady Cougars went toe-to-toe with them.
Bullitt Central won the first two points of the match and it was close the whole way. Bullitt Central’s biggest lead was at 14-11 and North Oldham never led by more than two points. The Lady Mustangs had a 21-19 edge only to have Bullitt Central win three straight points. North Oldham was serving for the game at 24-23 when Romine called a time-out. Bullitt Central then answered with two straight points.
The next Bullitt Central serve was deflected left toward the North Oldham bench and Lady Cougar fans were ready to celebrate. However, a Lady Mustang player got to the ball and kept it alive before North Oldham won the point. After winning another point, North Oldham’s Amanda Marques served an ‘ace’ that just caught the back line for the 27-25 win.
During the first game, Bullitt Central senior Chelsea Staples was dominating play at the net both offensively and defensively. In the second game, North Oldham began double- and even triple-blocking her and the Lady Cougars could not adjust to that.
The emotional let down was obvious at the start of the second game. After it was 1-1, North Oldham reeled off nine straight points behind the serving of Marques. It was already 15-2 when Romine called her second time-out.
“In the second game we just got frustrated,” Romine said. “They triple-blocked Chelsea and instead of looking around, she hit it right at them. They adjusted and we struggled to adjust to what they were doing.”
The loss ended Bullitt Central’s season with a 17-11 record. The match was the last for three seniors - Staples, Kelsey Holmes and Sarah Spurling. The team had more seniors until the last few weeks of the season.
“I’ve lost three off the team since we played Oldham County (on Oct. 6), two seniors and a junior,” Romine said. “Some of the others have stepped in and handled the challenge very well.”
When the three seniors were freshmen, they struggled to help the varsity win just two matches. They have returned the program to winning ways the past three seasons.
“Over the last three years they have had winning seasons each time and they have a district championship and a district runner-up finish,” Romine said. “They have built on to our tradition.”
Romine said that she is confident that all three of the seniors can play at the college level if that is what they choose.