SHEPHERDSVILLE - When both schools have T-shirts made before the match, you know you have something special brewing.
That was the case on Thursday as Bullitt East traveled to North Bullitt for the second meeting between the two rivals this season. In the first meetings, back on Sept. 13, it took five games before North Bullitt pulled out a 17-15 win at the end.
It was that first meeting when some North Bullitt fans felt that the Bullitt East contingent was a little overzealous. They were ready for the return trip, going to the trouble of making up T-shirts special just for the night and selling attendance to their students.
When news of the preparations hit social media, Bullitt East quickly joined the craze.
What resulted was the largest crowd to ever watch a volleyball match in Bullitt County. In fact, from a student standpoint, the crowd rivaled that of a Friday night basketball game in January.
It was loud, intense and emotional. It was a lot of fun as both teams have strong teams this fall with winning records.
With the two programs not in the same district this season, the emotion for the final match of the regular season was seen as beneficial by both coaches as their teams get ready for district play which is taking place this week.
On Thursday, it didn’t take five games as North Bullitt won the key points at the end of each game to secure a 25-22, 25-20, 25-21 victory.
“It was an exciting match,” North Bullitt head coach Ashley Byerley said as the home crowd continued to celebrate long after the final point. “It was already going to be emotional because of our six seniors (on Senior Night). I can’t be any more proud of the way they left the place.”
Byerley played her high school volleyball at Bullitt East, but she is comfortable in green and gold now.
“After the intense match-up last time we knew it would be intense tonight,” the coach said. “I knew that East wanted to win and I knew we wanted to win on Senior Night. East was tough.
“It probably won’t be as loud and intense as it was tonight in the upcoming district and regional tourneys,” Byerley pointed out.
Bullitt East had been playing well over the previous two weeks since winning the Seneca Invitational, but head coach Ed Fisher thought that his team didn’t play up to that level in this match.
“I just don’t think our team played in their element,” Fisher said. “They got lost out there at times.
“Give credit to North Bullitt,” the coach said. “They had a crowd. I was trying to get my girls to relax. They never seemed to relax.”
Only once in the three games were the two teams ever separated by more than four points. In the first and third games, the lead changed hands or the match was tied after the teams reached 20 points.
In the crucial first game, North Bullitt had a 14-10 lead before the Lady Chargers rallied with five straight points including a pair of ‘aces’ from junior Rebecca Rich. Bullitt East went back ahead 18-17 and they were up 21-19 before North Bullitt scored three straight points. The green and gold then had a bad serve, but finished out with three straight points for the 25-22 win.
North Bullitt had a 12-10 lead before senior Caitlin Gividen served three consecutive ‘aces’. The Lady Eagles were up 23-16 before Bullitt East scored four straight points only to have North Bullitt get two quick points for the 25-20 game.
Even at 2-0, the match never lost any of its intensity. This time, Bullitt East had the early advantage as they were up 9-6 when Byerley called her only time-out of the entire night. North Bullitt pulled even at 11-11 only to have the Lady Chargers move back ahead 17-14. The green and gold then scored seven of the next nine points before securing the 25-21 game.
“You couldn’t ask for a more spirited match,” Byerley said.
With Senior Night and the big crowd, Byerley had to work before the match to keep her team focused on the action between the lines.
“It’s good to be excited, but you can’t be over-excited,” the coach said. “We wanted to keep our mental focus.”
The Bullitt East coach just wanted a little better performance in the last match.
“We have four seniors that actually played,” Fisher said. “They got hung up in the emotion of the last game of the season. They didn’t come to play tonight.”
Fisher did say something that everyone can agree on.
“Hopefully, they can get the district changed and we can get back to having this mean something more,” he said.
Bullitt East finished regular season play with a 19-14 record. They were set to compete in the 24th District Tournament on Tuesday of this week where they were to face Fern Creek and then Mercy in one semi-final. The final is set for Thursday at 7 p.m. at Mercy.
North Bullitt took part in the Volleybrawl Tournament at John Hardin High School on Saturday and posted a 4-2 record. Both of the losses came to former Eighth Region rival Oldham County. The Lady Eagles picked up wins over Iroquois, John Hardin, Grayson County and East Jessamine.
That final tournament left North Bullitt with a 20-9 record heading into the post-season.
The 23rd District Tournament will be played entirely on Wednesday with four matches. Bullitt Central will take on Moore at 6 p.m. in one semi-final while North Bullitt will take on the winner of the earlier Evangel-Southern match at 7 p.m. in the other semi-final. The championship match will then be played at 8 p.m.
All four matches on Wednesday will be played at Evangel High School.
Bullitt Central, the number two seed in the 23rd District behind North Bullitt, picked up a win during the last week of the regular season as they beat Fort Knox three games to two games. The Lady Cougars finished the regular season with a 6-25 record.