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SHEPHERDSVILLE - The start was just what Bullitt East volleyball coach Ed Fisher was looking for on Thursday as his team made the trip down Highway-44 to take on rival Bullitt Central.
Winning the first game 25-5, the red and gold were looking to continue a hot-streak that has pushed them to 18-12 for the season.
The Lady Chargers did end up beating Bullitt Central, in three games, but Fisher was left with an empty feeling after the match as he felt that his team took their foot off the gas over the last two games, winning 25-21 and 25-16.
“The first game we looked good,” Fisher said after the win. “The second and third games we had a little let down.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Bullitt Central,” the coach added. “Their girls out-hustled us in the second and third games.”
Fisher had wanted to get some of his younger players some key match experience, but he was unable to do that as he had to leave his starters on the court as the games got closer.
The first game was all Bullitt East as Bullitt Central managed to win just one point on its own serve. The Lady Chargers had scoring runs of five and seven points and then scored the final nine points of the game behind the strong serving of senior Meghan Guillaume.
That strong play continued into the second game as Bullitt East raced out to a 10-2 lead, but Bullitt Central finally found its stride. The Lady Cougars battled back to tie the score at 17-17 and it was still knotted at 19-19 before the visitors closed out the game with a 6-2 run.
In the third game, Bullitt East bolted to a 14-4 advantage and this time Bullitt Central could not recover. The maroon and gray did get within 16-11 before the Lady Chargers pulled away for the 25-16 victory.
Bullitt East had won seven of its previous nine matches including the championship of the Seneca Invitational the previous weekend.
“We are coming off a great weekend,” Fisher said. “We beat two teams in our district (Fern Creek and Jeffersontown). If we had done that earlier in the season we wouldn’t be where we are having to face Mercy (being in the same half of the bracket as Mercy in next week’s 24th District Tournament).”
Bullitt East had beaten Bullitt Central in three straight games back early in the season.
“We beat them early when they had seniors,” Fisher noted. “Now, we might have slightly underestimated them. That’s a credit to Bullitt Central. They battled.”
It has been a long season for first-year Bullitt Central head coach Katie VanVactor as her team has won just five matches. At this point, the team has no seniors and they have lost two junior starters in the previous few days because of injuries and illness.
Still, the way her team played in the second and third games was a vast improvement for the coach over the way the team had played three nights earlier in a loss to North Bullitt on the same court.
“We are just so young,” VanVactor said after meeting with her team in a stairwell away from their locker room. “We gave East a run for their money in that second game. That’s an accomplishment.
“I think my girls were ready to play,” the coach added. “Anytime Bullitt Central plays Bullitt East it is good. You could tell by the crowd that there was a good energy.”
There were some positive highlights even in the loss.
“Kenzie Miller had her best game in three years. She had at least ten digs,” VanVactor said. “Amy Gossett came out big at the net with three or four blocks.”
Unlike Bullitt East, Bullitt Central’s post-season road presents better alternatives. Despite only five wins this season, two have come over 23rd District rivals Southern and Moore. Those wins gave Bullitt Central the number two seed in the five-team event and they will face Moore in the semi-finals. Moore has also won just five matches this season, but did beat Southern and Evangel.
Bullitt Central reaching the finals and playing North Bullitt is a strong possibility. That scenario will earn them a spot in the Sixth Region Tournament.
Still, the Lady Cougars are taking tiny steps to get more competitive.
“I think that winning is a habit and we’re not into the habit of winning,” the coach said. “We’ve played teams that we can beat. That comes from experience. We will get there.”
Bullitt East will close out the regular season on Thursday of this week when they travel to North Bullitt for a rematch of a classic showdown that saw the Lady Eagles pull out a victory in five games that ended 17-15 in the final game.
North Bullitt falters
After rolling past Southern, Evangel and Bullitt Central, North Bullitt head coach Ashley Byerley knew that her team was going to go up a few notches in terms the level of competition over the final ten days of the regular season.
That certainly proved to be the case as the team has dropped a pair of matches to Sixth Region rivals since beating Bullitt Central. The Lady Eagles dropped a tough match to Pleasure Ridge Park 19-25, 25-20, 25-20 and then fell to Holy Cross 25-11, 28-26.
On Tuesday of this week the Lady Eagles were scheduled to take on Whitefield Academy, probably the second-best team in the Sixth Region. After taking on Bullitt East on Thursday at home, the Lady Eagles will close out the regular season with a one-day tourney, taking part in the Central Kentucky Volleybrawl Tournament at John Hardin High School on Saturday.
At the start of this week, North Bullitt had a 15-5 record.