By Jay Compton
Middlesboro Daily News
LOG MOUNTAIN — The Bell County Lady Cats posted a second straight district win Tuesday as they got past Harlan 25-15, 25-18. Once again it was an edge in the service game that made the difference for the Lady Cats.
“Serving is like free throws in basketball — It’s what wins games. That’s what I keep issuing to these kids and they’re finally taking it to heart,” said Bell coach Amber Hinkle. “We worked hard on it in practice again and we worked on taking some hard serves and digging. We knew they had some good overhand servers and they almost beat us last year because their overhand serves.”
Bell took control of the first set early as Danielle Parks reeled off seven straight service points, including an ace, to put the Lady Cats up 9-2.
The Lady Dragons worked their way back into it and a service point from Lauren Cochran cut the lead to 13-8, but a bad serve swung the momentum right back to Bell County.
They extended the lead to 19-8 behind the serving of Kaitlyn Dean. Katie Jarvis and Parks both won points during the 6-0 run.
“I think we may have been nervous that first game. (Lauren Hogue) had been out with an injury and she just got released right before the match started,” Harlan coach Tara Posey said. “We got better that second game, just a few little mistakes hurt us.”
Kaylynn Gibson delivered a soft kill with a tap at the net and Jarvis spiked the ball hard out off a Harlan player as the Lady Cat lead grew to 21-9.
The Lady Dragons didn’t quit and service points from Amber Rouse and Paige Woodsby kept the first set going. An ace from Woodsby got Harlan as close as 24-15, but a serve into the net gave Bell the set 25-15.
In the second game, senior Taylor Hall won a point at the net to put the Lady Dragons up 3-1 in the early going.
Parks’ serving again helped the Lady Cat cause as she boomed three straight that Harlan couldn’t return as Bell took over the lead. Harlan answered as Woodsby reeled off four straight service points of her own, including a kill from Hogue and the Lady Dragons led it 9-6.
“It definitely helps us out a lot to have Hogue back in the lineup. Hopefully we’ll keep growing each game and be ready by the time district rolls around,” Posey said.
Hall and Gibson traded kills and two service points from Dean, including a block from Parks, tied the set at 10.
A Rouse kill put the Lady Dragons up 13-12, but Bell surged ahead with Gibson serving. She won one point at the net for a 14-12 Lady Cat lead and later added an ace to make it 16-13.
Usually a pass-first player, Gibson’s play at the net helped to spark the Lady Cats. She had four kills in the match to go along with her efforts as Bell’s primary setter.
“That stood out tonight and just our teamwork all together. Another big key thing for us is communication and that’s something we’re going to keep working on as the season goes,” Hinkle said.
Harlan rallied behind a couple of service points from Rouse. Hall had a kill and when the Lady Cats returned a serve out of bounds the set was tied at 17.
Bell took the lead for good when Harlan was called for a net violation. Up 19-18, Courtney Cinnamon came on to serve out the match. She found a sweet spot along the right sideline and delivered five hard serves that the Lady Dragons couldn’t return as the Lady Cats closed it out by scoring the final six points.
Harlan (3-4 overall, 1-2 in district play) hosts Red Bird on Tuesday. Bell County (2-6, 2-1) plays at Thomas Walker, Va., Thursday.