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South Laurel’s Taylor Arthur (in red) battles Whitley County’s Alyssa Monhollen at the net during the opening game of the 13th Region volleyball tournament at Bell County. Whitley County beat South Laurel, 25-16, 26-24.

LOG MOUNTAIN—It wasn’t the game to decide the 13th Region champion. Or was it?

South Laurel had won the past two 13th Region titles. Whitley County boasts the best record in the region and was riding a nine-game winning streak. The Lady Colonels last loss came over a month ago on Sept. 12 to South Laurel.

“We are running on a lot of momentum and momentum is everything in athletics,” Whitley County coach David Halcomb said.

The Lady Colonels kept that momentum with a 2-0 (25-16, 26-24) win over South Laurel Monday. Lady Cardinals coach Fawn Greer said she does think that moves Whitley County into the favorite position.

“I think Whitley and South were neck and neck,” Greer said. “Whitley has beaten Corbin twice and I think they have the heart.”

The Lady Colonels certainly looked the role of a favorite in dominating the first set. Whitley County may have still been feeding off the confidence from a win at South Laurel Oct. 3. South Laurel seemed to still be looking for its confidence after losing four of its last five matches.

“We played several tough teams at the end, so they lost three games at the end of the year and that kind of got them down,” Greer said.

They may have also been a victim of the Lady Colonels late-season momentum.

“We knew they were tough going in. I think they psyched themselves out and they were really nervous that first game,” Greer said.

The first set made all the difference for a Whitley County team not always known as a fast starter.

“That has been a problem for us, especially lately is we get off to a slow start and have to battle back. Just to see those kids come together and play that well is so gratifying from a coach’s perspective,” Halcomb said.

Possibly because they knew their season depended on winning the second set, it was a much different South Laurel team. The Lady Cardinals jumped ahead 5-1 with Alyson Croley slamming a pair of kills. Whitley County rallied to take a 7-6 lead with a run of five straight points.

“Our kids showed a lot of courage by battling back and staying focused,” Halcomb said.

The lead reached four points before trading points on seven consecutive serves. It would be South Laurel’s turn to rally and tie the score 19-19. There would be ties at 21-21 and 22-22. Greer said she thought her team was going to pull out the second set win.

 “I thought they were, but they were still off for some reason,” Greer said. “A couple of them were off. A couple of them were really on.”

As close as the second set was, South Laurel never led after 6-5. Whitley County never led by more than four points. The Lady Colonels were serving match point at 24-22. Taylor Arthur showed she was one of the players that was on with a kill and a block to tie the score 24-24. Just when it looked like the Lady Cardinals were back in it, a net serve and kill that sailed long ended the game.

“South Laurel has got a great program. Like I said last time we beat them, they have ruled the 13th Region for so many years. We have a lot of respect for their program,” Halcomb said. “It’s been a goal of ours to get to this point.”

Corbin appears to be the team most capable of keeping Whitley County from winning a region title. The Lady Colonels have beaten Corbin twice this season with both matches going three sets.

“Really I think the only thing that can (stop us) is ourselves,” Halcomb said.

South Laurel (14-20) will have to replace three seniors, but has a strong junior class to try and regain the region crown in 2012.

“As far as team bonding they were really good,” Greer said. “Up until the end, I thought this was going to be one of the top years. Overall I think it was successful. They learned a lot. I’m ready for next year.”

mhoward@sentinel-echo.com

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