For the better part of two decades, Owensboro Catholic and Apollo ruled the roost when it came to high school volleyball in the 3rd Region.

Last season, however, Breckinridge County cracked the code by emerging as regional champion.

Now, upstart Daviess County is making a strong bid to break through in both the 9th District and 3rd Region.

The Lady Panthers' attention-getting four-set conquest of visiting arch-rival on Tuesday night suggests that DC means serious business in terms of establishing itself as a legitimate power in the area.

"The biggest thing has been establishing a winning culture," second-year Daviess County head coach Tyla Bailey said. "Getting to that point where we understand we have what it takes to do well -- that we can compete in the district.

"It's still a day-to-day thing. We're still trying to overcome the historical stigma, getting over the psychological hurdles that come with establishing a winning program.

"I don't know, maybe me not being from here has been helpful in that regard."

Bailey hit the ground running after graduating from Murray State in 2015, gaining a teaching job at DCHS and joining the staff of then-head coach Steve Howard. A year later, Bailey remained on staff when Keith Sage took the reigns.

Last year, at age 24, Bailey ascended to the top job.

"I still have a lot to learn," she said. "We're learning out here together."

In 2018, the Lady Panthers started fast, winning 13 of 21 matches, before closing the season with a six-match losing streak. DC lost all three encounters with Catholic -- including a four-set match in the first round of the 9th District Tournament -- and was swept in two regular season matchups with Apollo.

When the dust settled, Daviess County's record was 13-14 -- still, a massive improvement from the previous year's 11-24 mark.

This season, the Lady Panthers have the second-best record in the region (14-6) behind Breck County, took Catholic to five sets before losing, and, of course, defeated Apollo on Tuesday.

"This district is tough," Bailey said. "We're moving in the right direction, but we have to stay with it, continue to get better, continue to minimize the little mistakes that can be the difference between winning and losing."

One of DC's primary strengths is its play at the net, led by seniors Ashton Johnson and Kinsley Phelps, along with juniors Elizabeth Moore, Kloee Phelps, Jasmine Beasley and Ryann Keller.

"We've tried to emphasize that we need to believe we can capitalize on our strengths," Bailey said. "Again, it's been about creating that mindset that we're strong in this particular area and we need to take advantage of it -- and it's been the entire team working together on that.

Setters have been senior Hannah Axley and Keller, junior Kendal Goetz is the Libero, while back-line defensive specialists include junior Chea Bowers, senior Delaney Evans and sophomore Kayla Clark.

"This group is coming together, working on being good teammates," Bailey said. "We had a stretch where we played 14 matches in 10 days and I think there was a lot of team bonding that took place during that time -- we're getting there."

Now, Bailey is hoping the Lady Panthers will take the next step in their evolution as a legitimate championship contender.

"Psychologically, we've come leaps and bounds since last season, but we're still seeking consistency," she said. "We want to play with high energy, and when we make a mistake we want to get over it immediately and move on to the next point. Our serving also needs to be more consistent.

"In terms of the postseason, I know our seniors are saying, 'Why wait? Let's do it this year.' It could go either way in district tournament play, but I believe this team is ready to give it their best shot."

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