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Kelsie Smith sets the ball during North Laurel’s loss to Whitley County.

WILLIAMSBURG - Did Whitley County win it, or did North Laurel lose it? You could probably argue either way, but the Lady Colonels took both sets Thursday night, 25-22 and 25-17.

“I don’t want to take away from Whitley County because I thought they won it,” North Laurel coach Bill Abner said. “At the same time, I thought we could have done some things to be a little smarter.”

North Laurel served well in the first set, but lost several challenges at the net. The Lady Colonels weren’t physically better there, they just seemed to play smarter.

“They did a great job tipping the ball tonight and we didn’t react to it as well as we should have. We should have seen that early,” Abner said.

The serves failed in the second set, with five of the Lady Colonels first 11 points coming on net serves by North Laurel. A sixth point came on a close call on a serve ruled out. Still, the Lady Jaguars were able to stay even at 15-15 in the second set, until the team made a disappearing act in the final minutes. Whitley County outscored North Laurel, 10-2, after the final tie.

“I’m still wondering what happened to us at the end of that second set,” Abner said. “I can’t explain that one because the first set was played at a very high level.”

The first set did have a feel of tournament volleyball, a place Abner hopes his team can make some noise this year. He sees Whitley County as another team with post season potential.

“I think Whitley is a dark horse to win the region. They are athletic, good at the net, they move well. I’ve liked them all year,” Abner said.

North Laurel played Thursday without one of its front line starters. Kenna Wyatt injured a knee Tuesday against Clay County and could miss a couple of weeks.

“We missed Kenna, although Kristen Fields played very solid like she always does,” Abner said. “The one thing Kenna does a little better probably is finish at the net. Kristen gets to more balls, so its sort of a trade off.”

The Lady Jaguars did again get consistent play from Samantha Proffitt. Consecutive kills by Proffitt in the first gave North Laurel its first lead at 20-19.

“She has been playing much better as far as consistency goes,” Abner said. “She’s got a chance to be the best net players in the region next year.”

After taking the lead, North Laurel lost the momentum with poor setting.

“We set them a lot. A lot of our sets from the back row were right on the net and their girls did a good job of being aggressive and putting it away,” Abner said.

Whitley County has won six straight games and nine of its last 10. The only loss was in straight sets to South Laurel. The loss prior to that came at North Laurel in two very close sets.

In four sets this season with Whitley County, only the final set Thursday was decided by more than three points.

“I don’t have a lot of gripe other than that stretch in the second set because I do consider Whitley to be a very solid team,” Abner said.

The Lady Jaguars were coming off a two-set win over Clay County Tuesday. They split four games in the Rockcastle County Invitational.

“I’m sort of happy right now. We’re playing at a better level,” Abner said.

North Laurel beat Boyle County and Russell County in the Lady Rocket Invitational and had Rockcastle County on the ropes.

“I was tickled to death with the way we played at Rockcastle. We won two matches and had Rockcastle beat in the third match. We won the first set and had them down 11-2 in the second set,” Abner said. “We win that match and we are in the finals.”

The loss to Rockcastle County gave the Lady Jaguars another match up with their nemesis Corbin.

“We beat them handily in the first set and for some reason, Corbin has our number. They came back and beat us two sets,” Abner said.

North Laurel plays at Bell County next Tuesday and then the schedule jumps up a notch with games against Southwestern, South Laurel, and Rockcastle County.

“That’s our Murderer’s Row we play every year, but this year they are at home. To me, 0-3 would be unacceptable this year in that stretch,” Abner said.

Mitch Howard can be reached at mhoward@sentinel-echo.com.

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