Down two starters, the Middlesboro Lady Jackets hung with Harlan County for most of their match but just came up short in dropping a 25-19, 25-22 decision to the Lady Bears.
MHS coach Mike Spradlin was without seniors Karrah Hart and Adreana Lefevers. Hart was with her fiance who was having surgery while Lefevers could be out for the season with an injury. Still he was pleased with his girls’ effort just not with their serving.
“They actually did okay in talking to each other. The thing that really got us was our serves. We only had three girls that could serve tonight, the others just couldn’t get it over the net,” Spradlin said. “We stayed close enough to win the game if the other girls could have produced on their serves. When you don’t get it over the net you lose.”
Harlan County was without head coach Donna Vicini. Jennifer Hilton filled in and coached the Lady Bears to their first win of the season.
“It’s always good to win, and believe me we needed it,” she said. “We performed as a team and that’s why we came away with a win.”
Middlesboro jumped out to a 9-4 lead in the opening set after a kill by freshman Brooke Foister and were still up 12-8 after Whitney Cox won a point at the net.
But a service error gave Harlan County control and sophomore Natalie Middleton four straight service points to give the Lady Bears a 13-12 lead.
It went back and forth from there until junior Katelyn Reynolds delivered a kill and then a pair of service points to put Harlan County up 19-15. The Lady Jackets wouldn’t get closer than 20-18 the rest of the way and Middleton served out the set with the last two service points, including an ace on set point.
“Katelyn had a nice game, but I have to give credit to my setters. I also have to give credit to my bumpers. Bumpers make good setters and setters make good spikers,” Hilton said.
The second set opened just like first set ended — with Middleton serving an ace and Harlan County jumped out to a 9-2 lead. Middleton and Brittany Clem each had three service points during that spurt with Reynolds adding a pair of kills.
Middlesboro senior Jasmine Dotson provided the answer with five straight serves that the Lady Bears couldn’t return to cut the deficit to one. A Reynolds kill stopped that run and kept Harlan County in lead at 10-8.
Harlan County’s Celina Hatmaker and Middlesboro’s Foister exchanged kills during the next run of action and a kill from Bailey Powers after an brought the Lady Jackets within 18-14. It was 20-15 when Dotson delivered an ace and another serve the Lady Bears couldn’t return to cut the lead to 20-17.
“Jasmine, she smoked them,” Spradlin said.
Powers also served up an ace to kick off a run of three points that included a point won by Shae Moyers as MHS tied the game at 22.
But a ball hit into the net gave the serve back to the Lady Bears and sophomore sub Elyse Turner came up with spike for a kill to push the lead to 24-22. The Lady Bears took the match when Middlesboro couldn’t return Hatmaker’s final serve.
“(Turner) spiked that ball and that was uncharacteristic of her,” Hilton said. “We huddled in a time out and I told them they have to believe in themselves. She went out there and believed in herself, she didn’t think about it and that’s why she was successful.”
Harlan County (1-6, 1-1 in district play) visits Whitley County on Thursday. Middlesboro (2-9, 0-1) plays at Barbourville on Monday.
“Having Karrah could have made a difference, but she wasn’t here. We’ve also lost Adreana Lefevers probably for the season and it’s taken two girls to replace her,” Spradlin added. “I went from having a pretty good starting team with a good bench to really having just one girl I can use on the bench. It sounds like I’m whining but I’m not, it’s just the breaks of the game.”