It has been quite the week to be a Southwestern fan, as two athletic teams tallied regional championship trophies within a three-day span.
On Thursday evening, the Lady Warrior volleyball team tallied a 12th Region title with a 3-1 victory over Wayne County.
On Saturday afternoon, the Warrior boys' soccer team garnered a 12th Region championship with a 3-0 win against Danville.
Thanks to those pair of regional championships, both the boys' soccer team and the volleyball team will participate in state tournaments this week. The soccer Warriors will begin state tourney play in Lexington, while the volleyball squad will head to Louisville later this week for the state tournament.
Danita Ellis, the principal at Southwestern High School, is extremely proud of the two squads and their strong work ethic, both inside and outside of the classroom.
"This week has been amazing and full of excitement for Southwestern," stated Ellis. "You always hope for a regional title but to have our students bring home two in one week, just shows how hard they work and the tenacity they have. I respect and admire all of these student athletes and coaches. They do all the extras every day in the classroom and on the playing fields/court, and I could not be more proud of them."
The Lady Warriors came into the 12th Region Volleyball Tournament as a runner-up, following a loss to Wayne County in the 48th District Championship. Because of that runner-up finish, Southwestern drew highly-touted West Jessamine in the opening round.
That first round matchup versus West Jessamine truly showed how bad Southwestern wanted to win, as they overcame a 2-0 set deficit to win the overall match by a score of 3-2. Following the victory over West Jessamine, the Lady Warriors cruised to a 3-0 win over Lincoln County to advance to the region finals.
A week after falling to rival Wayne County in the district championship game, Southwestern would get the last laugh, tallying a 3-1 win over the Lady Cardinals. With the match victory, Melissa Gaunce and the Lady Warriors tallied their eighth regional title in program history.
First-year Southwestern athletic director Alex Eaton was impressed with the way the volleyball squad overcame a 2-0 deficit in the opening round of the regional tourney. When their backs were against the wall, the team didn't quit, and now the Lady Warriors are region champs for the first time since 2015.
"I am so happy for Melissa and the girls," praised Eaton. "They have worked so hard this fall. I love the fact that they never quit and always compete. They were down two sets to West in the first round of the region and things looked very dim for their future, but they never quit. They were able to win the next three sets to advance. Their senior leadership has kept them together. It's been a great run, and I am looking forward to the state tournament."
With their eighth regional championship in 11 years, Southwestern (27-13) advances to the KHSAA Volleyball State Tournament, where they will play Paintsville on Friday evening at Louisville Valley High School. Paintsville (35-3) qualified for the state tourney after winning the 15th Region Volleyball Tournament.
Gaunce, who is in her third season as the head coach of the Lady Warriors, is extremely proud of the student-athletes for succeeding in the classroom and on the field or court.
"It is incredible to have two teams from the same school advance to the state tournament just within a couple days of each other," Gaunce said. "They all work so hard, and it's such an honor to be a part of helping them achieve their goals."
"This speaks volumes about not only the athletes, but also the administrators, teachers, and coaches," continued the volleyball head coach. "Most of these kids are taking AP classes, dual credit classes, trying to decide on colleges, showing up to practice every day, and somehow managing to balance it all."
No local soccer team had won a regional title in 14 years, but thanks to the Warriors, that drought is officially over. With a 3-0 victory over Danville on Saturday afternoon in Nicholasville, Southwestern claimed their third-ever region title and their first regional championship since 2004.
To begin the regional tourney, the Warriors knocked off crosstown rival Pulaski County by a score of 5-0. Following the five-goal triumph over Pulaski County, Southwestern edged out Lincoln County, 2-1, to move on to the region title game for the first time since 2008.
Danville, who came into the regional championship game with a record of 19-1-1, was heavily favored to bring home the trophy. Sean McBride and the Warriors would take down the mighty Admirals with the 3-0 win, which just happened to be the first time all-year long that Danville was held scoreless by an opponent.
The first-year athletic director has enjoyed seeing how much teamwork the boys' soccer team has shown over the course of this season, and he is excited about their chances in the state tourney.
"What a year for the Warriors," exclaimed Eaton. "Sean has done such a good job with this group of young men. They are so unselfish offensively. They have multiple people that score on a regular basis and their defenders just get after it night in and night out. I am happy for their seniors that have the opportunity to play in the state tourney on their way out. I look forward to this coming week to see how far this group of seniors can take this team - it should be a blast."
Southwestern (15-4) is back in the state tournament for the first time since 2004, where they will play Henry Clay (10-8-3) on Tuesday evening in Lexington. Henry Clay beat Paul Laurence Dunbar, 2-1, to move on to the KHSAA Soccer State Tournament.
McBride, who took over as the head coach of the Warriors in 2010, had nothing but kind words to say about the volleyball team's eighth regional title in school history.
"It's been a good week to be a Southwestern Warrior," McBride began. "Having two athletics programs participate in state tournaments is something our student body will be excited about. This is my 11th year at SWHS, and I feel like volleyball wins region every year. They have been such a consistent program. They compete at a high level every season. I have a lot of the players in class and can tell the girls are passionate about the sport they play. We are all very proud of the job they've done."
As far as his own team, the ninth-year head coach is more than thrilled to be the first local boys' soccer team to win a regional championship in over a decade.
"The boys' soccer regional championship is a testament to the work these boys have put in the past several years," McBride said. "This success is not something that's built over night. I'm extremely proud of my team. This team has everything any coach would want on his team. There's fantastic chemistry amongst the players, positive attitudes, and fantastic work ethic. They've been an absolute privilege to coach. Winning regional championships are not common in our region. It's been fourteen years since any team from our area has won a regional title in soccer."
No matter the results in their respective state tournaments, the volleyball team and the boys' soccer team have put Southwestern High School athletics on the map in 2018.
Follow Michael Childers on Twitter - @GetChili22