By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
CORBIN—Both teams came into Monday night’s first round of the 50th District volleyball tournament playing some of their best volleyball of the season.
South Laurel had won seven of its last nine games, while North Laurel had recently taken region powers Corbin and Whitley County to the limit, losing to the Lady Colonels in five sets and the Lady Redhounds in four.
Something had to give.
That something was tip plays at the net by the Lady Cardinals, which allowed South to take a 25-20, 21-25, 25-23, 25-20 win and advance to the finals against Corbin.
“They tipped us to death,” North Laurel coach Ali Ray said. “They found the holes in our defense and kept us back on our heels defensively.”
South Laurel coach Fawn Greer said using the tips at the net was part of her strategy going into the match.
“We focused on what we did the last time we played them,” Greer said. “We made them move by pushing it (the ball) to open holes and they had to adjust.”
The win also kept South Laurel perfect against its county rival.
All four sets were thrillers that weren’t decided until the final points. North jumped out early in the first set behind the serves of Daylen Gilbert for a 3-0 lead. Then the serving of Kelsey Parsons got South back in the set with a 4-3 lead.
After the game was tied 4-4, the Lady Cardinals seized control and never trailed the rest of the game, taking the 25-20 win,
Set number two saw South build an 13-6 lead before North started its comeback, thanks to strong serving, outscoring the Lady Cardinals 11-5 to tie the set, 18-18.
Then it was the play of Samantha Napier at the net that led the Lady Jaguars down the stretch, as she had three kills. Miranda Bowling and Marsha Boggs also recorded kills as North took the second set, 25-21. There were several good digs by both teams late in set to keep points alive.
North started out strong in the third set and built an early 12-6 lead before the Lady Cards started to battle back and tie the set at 16-16 on a kill by Whitney Wilt.
Both teams would battle back-and-forth throughout the remainder of the set with South Laurel pulling it out in the end, 25-23.
Set number four was pretty much like the previous three, with both teams battling hard. South raced out to an 8-1 lead and looked poised to blow North away before the Lady Jaguars began chipping away at the lead, cutting it to 8-6 on a point from Napier. But on the next serve she would hit the ball into the net to give South a 10-6 lead and serve. That seemed to be a trend for the Lady Jaguars in the fourth set.
“We hurt ourselves a lot,” Ray said. “Every time we would get close we’d do something to give it back to them.”
South maintained its lead until Brooke Carpenter’s serve tied the set at 13-13. There would be one more tie (14-14) before Alyson Croley and Taylor Arthur started to take over at the net, leading South to a 25-20 win.
“We played well for the most part,” Ray said. “They played hard and did everything I asked of them. A coach can’t ask for more.”