By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
The plan was to give the majority of the playing time Tuesday to the five North Laurel seniors. The plan worked well as they rolled to a 25-11 win in the first set. It also worked well as they cruised to a 16-9 lead in the second set.
“I let all the seniors play all the way around, so they were excited. They all did good,” North Laurel coach Ali Ray said.
The Senior Night celebration was briefly derailed as Somerset rallied in the second set to take a 24-23 lead. The rally started when Ray took her seniors out of the lineup.
“I was trying to get them a round of applause. I thought for sure our juniors could take care of it, but it almost came back and bite me,” Ray said.
With North Laurel leading 16-9, Somerset scored five straight points beginning when a Lady Jaguars serve sailed out of bounds. It did seem like order had been restored when senior Ashley Wyatt returned to the lineup to serve. It was a Wyatt ace that had North Laurel closing in on the win 22-17.
North Laurel tipped two balls into the net, followed by an ace by Somerset’s Kristen Moore. Then a North Laurel kill and set were stopped by the net as the score drew even 22-22. Another ace by Moore gave Somerset the lead.
The Lady Jaguars evened the match again on a tip by Daylen Gilbert. Somerset had match point when a North Laurel kill sailed out of bounds.
Samantha Napier kept North Laurel alive with a tip. Senior Lindsey Rice stepped up to serve and delivered two aces to finally end the match., 26-24.
Although Ray was relieved to see the match end, she is not looking forward to losing the five seniors—Brooke Carpenter, T.J. Stuber, Kelsey Rice, Lindsey Rice, and Ashley Wyatt.
“When I started as an assistant they were freshmen coming in. Some of them I have known since they were little bitty girls. They are all special to me,” Ray said.
She added that they were a special group that loved the game of volleyball and North Laurel High School.
“They are just the type of girls that are going to work hard and do what I say. They never complained. You never hear a bad thing coming out of their mouth,” Ray said.
The Lady Jaguars do have one regular season game remaining. They were scheduled to travel to McCreary Central Thursday.
“It is important. I’m glad we are playing a good team like McCreary. I would rather end with a good team, good competition. Whether we win or lose it is going to be good for us,” Ray said. “It will be good for us to see some hard hits and some hard serves because that’s what we’re going to see on Monday.”
The Lady Raiders have two wins over North Laurel this season, including the finals of the Steak-N-Shake Tournament North Laurel hosted last week. Ray said she does not have to remind her team how they have done against McCreary Central.
“They are aware,” Ray said.
The stakes will be even higher Monday when the Lady Jaguars face South Laurel in the first round of the 50th District Tournament at Corbin.