Chris Jones | Daily Enterprise

Harlan’s Hannah Jones and Harlan County’s Elizabeth Ball battled at the net in district volleyball action Monday at HCHS. The Lady Dragons clinched the district’s top seed with a 25-17, 25-17, 25-8 victory.

Lady Dragons clinch top seed with win

With a large student section from both schools giving it perhaps the best big-game atmosphere in local volleyball history, the Harlan Lady Dragons and Harlan County Lady Bears squared off Monday at HCHS with the lead for the top seed in next month’s 52nd District Tournament on the line.

After competitive first and second sets won by Harlan, the Lady Dragons finished off a 25-17, 25-17, 25-8 victory by dominating the third set and locking up the top seed in the process. The Lady Dragons improved to 8-7 overall and 4-0 in district competition and cemented its position as the favorite for a fourth straight district championship.

“I’m very proud of them,” Harlan coach Shawna Cox said. “They deserved to win. Harlan County played us tough though, especially the first game.”

The Lady Dragons seemed to dominate in several phases, beginning with five straight service points by Madison Middleton in the first set. Ai-yana Harriston reeled off 10 straight service points as the Lady Dragons ran away with the third set.

“Those two are very powerful servers. They really showed that tonight,” Cox said.

Harlan also won the battle around the net, led by Natalee King and Hannah Jones.

“I thought Natalee dominated at the net tonight, and I thought Hannah Jones did real well also,” Cox said. “All the girls played well.”

Olivia Minor led Harlan County in service points with five, followed by Kathrine Bailey with four, Haley Scearse, Elizabeth Ball and Dixie Ewing with two each and Hannah Jones with one. Ball was first in kills with seven. Emily Long was next with four. Breann Turner had two and Ewing added one. Bailey had six assists, while Scearse and Ewing added one each. Minor led in digs with 18, followed by Scearse with 17, Long with 11, Ewing with 10, Bailey with six and Turner with three.

No statistical information was provided by Harlan.

After falling behind 5-0 in the opening set, HCHS battled back to take an 11-10 lead on consecutive points by Turner and Minor. A King block put Harlan back on top at 15-14, and the Lady Dragons pulled away from there with Middleton ending the set with a kill.

The second set was close until Harlan went on an 8-3 run to go up 22-12. Minor led a brief comeback before Harriston put Harlan back in control late in the second set.

Harlan had a 7-1 run early in the third set to take control and scored 10 straight behind Harriston to build a 23-5 lead. Another kill by King closed out the victory.

Harlan County (5-6 overall, 3-2 district) returns to action Tuesday at home against Jenkins. Harlan plays at Bell County on Tuesday.

The Lady Dragons won 23-21, 21-14, 21-12 in junior varsity action. Harlan County won the freshman game, but no scoring information was available.