By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
The first time these two teams hooked up, North Laurel defeated South Laurel for the first time ever in straight sets.
Thursday night the Lady Jaguars made it two wins in a row over their cross-town rivals, but this time it wasn’t easy, going the full five sets before North Laurel emerged victorious, 22-25, 27-25, 29-27, 17-25, 15-12.
But it easily could have been South Laurel with the sweep this time. After winning the first set, the Lady Cardinals were up in the second, 23-19, and had five set points before falling, 27-25. They were up 24-22 in the third set before dropping that one, 29-27.
“I think my team likes playing from behind,” North Laurel Coach Haley Ratliff said “We come out relaxed, but once we get going we pick things up.”
South Laurel coach Mitzi Jones knows this is one that her team probably should have won.
“We let it get away,” Jones said. “We should have won the second and third sets but we had missed serves and hits going out. Little things like that hurt us.”
All five sets were filled with long rallies, tremendous digs and, at times, stellar serving on both sides. South Laurel battled back from 14-9 down in the first set to tie the match, 15-15, on the strength of Kaylee Norvell’s serves as she recorded three aces during that run.
The two teams battled back and forth down the stretch before South was able to pull out the 25-22 win on a set by Norvell that resulted in a point by Kaitlyn Spicer.
“Our communication was off in the first set,” Ratliff said.
The second set was similar to the first as neither team led by more than three points until South took a 23-19 lead and looked to be cruising to a 2-0 lead
But North had other ideas. Kills by Kelsey Hacker and Marsha Boggs, along with some strong serving, allowed the Lady Jaguars to outscore South, 8-2, to take the second set, 27-25.
The third set was almost a carbon copy of the second set with both teams staying within striking distance and South having a chance to win leading 24-22 before North again made a late set rally to win 29-27, and take a 2-1 lead.
South Laurel took the fourth set, 25-17, but at a price when Savannah Baxter injured her ankle on the last play and would miss the fifth and deciding set.
“Not having Savannah hurt us,” Jones said. “We had to move around our rotation. If we would have had her it might have turned out differently.”
North Laurel, behind the play of Miranda Browning and Daylen Gilbert, took control from the start and never trailed, winning the fifth and deciding set, 15-12.
“We still need to work on our serves and technique,” Ratliff said “But we are staying solid and that’s all I can ask.”
“I’m pleased with the way my girls played,” Jones said. “I’m proud of them.”
Both teams participated in North Laurel’s Steak ‘N Shake Tournament on Saturday. South will travel to Whitley County Tuesday while North Laurel will be at McCreary Central.