By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
CORBIN—When the drawings were held last week for the 13th Region volleyball tournament, right away you knew one of the top three teams in the tournament wouldn’t make it to the semifinals.
Whitley County, winners of the 51st District, drew 50th District runners-up South Laurel, to set up this titanic first round battle. The winner advances to the semifinals while the loser goes home.
In the end, it was the Lady Cardinals advancing to the semis with a 3-0 (25-19, 25-18, 25-17) win over the Lady Colonels.
While it wasn’t the best South coach Fawn Greer had seen her team play this year, it was still something special.
“This was the most I’ve seen us play with heart,” Greer said. “They have a goal and they are fighting for it.”
That goal, of course, is to make it to state tournament. Last season, Whitley County knocked South out in the first round of the region. Tuesday night, South took a big step in making its goal become a reality.
“We communicated really well,” Greer said. “We pressed that hard in practice, to make them talk more, especially Tara (Deaton), like where to place the ball. Tara had an amazing game.”
All three sets were similar with the two powerhouses trading points early before the Lady Cards were able to put together a run to take control of each set. It was the net play that Greer felt was one of the keys in this win.
“We had several blocks on the outside,” Greer said. “We are getting better at transitioning over.”
South Laurel (18-6-0) led the entire way in the first set, with the set tied twice (3-3, 8-8). The Lady Cards took a 9-8 lead when Briana Maynes serve sailed long. That gave South the serve back, resulting in a 10-1 run and a 19-9 lead behind the serving of Deaton and Taylor Arthur and the net play of C.J. Johnson and Alyson Croley.
Whitley County (27-7-0) made a small run at the end of the set, cutting the lead to 24-19 before Arthur blocked Maynes at the net for the 25-19 win.
The second set saw Whitley race out to a 5-1 lead with Taylor Dingess and Maynes controlling the net action. The lead was 6-2 when a kill by Whitney Wilt gave South the point and the serve back.
The Lady Cards took advantage of that with the serving of Amy Cummins to take a 7-6 lead. But Whitley came back and pushed the lead back to 12-8 before Maynes sent her serve into the net.
Arthur was able to serve her team back to within a point before she sent her serve wide. Only the Lady Colonels weren’t able to take advantage, giving the point back to South and the serve to Deaton with Whitley up by one, 13-12.
From that point on, it was all South Laurel. Deaton served her team to a 15-14 lead. Then Kelsey Parsons served the Lady Cards to a 21-14 lead. Whitley never recovered as South took set two, 25-18.
“It’s in the second set where we usually start to relax,” Greer said. “I told them not to relax and to stay on top.”
The early part of the third set had both teams trading points, with South trying to close out the match while Whitley was trying to extend it.
That is until Deaton got the serve with a 7-6 lead. Her serve, plus two points by Croley, pushed South’s lead to 13-6. That run rattled Whitley County, as the Lady Colonels began to make mistakes, which South capitalized on. Suddenly the lead was 22-13 as Johnson sent a cross-court kill off a set by Deaton. South then closed out the set for a 25-17 win.
The win advanced South to Wednesday’s semifinal match-up with Harlan County, a straight set winner over Clay County.