Middlesboro Daily News
MIDDLESBORO - The Harlan County Lady Bears rode the strong service games of Cara Middleton and Rebecca Eldridge to a 2-1 win over Bell County Tuesday to take early control in the 52nd District.
Harlan County came from behind to take a 19-25, 25-17, 25-21 win. It was their third straight victory over a district opponent and their fourth straight overall.
“You know there’s a little bit of pressure with that many district games in a row,” said Lady Bear coach Donna Vicini. “I’ve got four seniors and they’re big girls so they ought to be able to handle any pressure that’s thrown at them now.”
It was the young Lady Cats handling that pressure in the early going. Behind crisp passing from Kaylynn Gibson and strong net play from sophomore Katie Jarvis and freshman Danielle Parks, Bell took the first set 25-19.
Bell’s service game got away from them, especially in the second set and Harlan County was able to take advantage.
“We work in practice every day and sometimes when they get out there they get a little jittery but I’m proud of them, they came back,” Vicini said.
Middleton had five service points early in the second set as Harlan County went up 8-2.
Bell County rallied back as senior Sydney Gray reeled off four straight service points. After a string of bad serves from both teams left the score 11-8, Parks delivered a strong block to get the Lady Cats right back in it.
The Lady Cats hit another serve out of bounds and Harlan County soon pulled away.
“I’ve told them all year long that serving was going to kill us. If we don’t get our serves in we can’t compete with anybody and that was one of our main problems tonight was getting our serves in,” Bell coach Amber Hinkle said. “I thought we played great other than the serving.When you get your serves in you can earn points and have some fun. If we can let the stress off and play like we do every day in practice then we can win some games.”
Eldridge came on to serve with the Lady Bears up 13-9 and promptly delivered two aces. Whitney Stevens added a kill and Middleton also won a point at the net. Bell was called for a carry and then returned another Eldridge serve out of bounds as the Lady Bear lead grew to 20-9 and they went on to take the second set 25-17.
Eldridge started out serving in the deciding third set and kills from Stevens and Middleton helped Harlan County to a 4-0 lead.
Two more bad serves put the Lady Cats deeper into a hole and Middleton then reeled off seven straight service points for a 14-2 Lady Bear edge.
“Actually tonight was better serves than we’ve been having. We’ve worked on at the beginning of practice and at the end of practice and sometimes they just fall — that’s all I can say,” said Vicini.”
But there was no quit in the Lady Cats. Gray’s turn to serve came back around and she coaxed Harlan County to hit three returns out of bounds. Gibson had a kill and Jarvis won a point with a hard spike that bounced out of bounds off a Lady Bear on the back line and Bell closed the gap to 14-9.
Megan King later subbed in to serve for the Lady Cats and provided four more points with a kill from Jarvis bringing Bell within 16-14.
“Other than the serving, I thought we played really well,” Hinkle said.
Another bad serve ended the Bell momentum and a set kill from Middleton gave the Lady Bears some breathing room. A pair of service points from Chyanna Harris made it 22-17.
Three strong serves from Parks got the Lady Cats as close as 23-20, but a a couple of communication errors late helped Harlan County pull out the 25-21 win to take the third set and the match.
“There were a lot of communication errors, just because we’re not talking on the court. We can talk anywhere going on the bus, but when it comes to this sport here everybody is as quiet as a mouse,” Hinkle said.
Harlan County (5-1, 3-0 district) hosts Perry Central today while Bell County (1-6, 0-1) visits Middlesboro on Thursday.