The Middlesboro Lady Jackets put up a fight in Monday’s 52nd District semifinal, but the diverse attack of the Harlan County Lady Bears proved to be too much. Harlan County swept the best-of-five match 25-12, 25-13, 25-17 to advance to the district championship.
“We came out little bit flat tonight, but we were beaten by a superior team,” Lady Jacket coach Mike Spradlin said.
Middlesboro got one service point from 8th-grader Brooke Foister and two from junior Shae Moyers early in the opening set, including an ace from Moyers to get within 7-6.
The next serve from Moyers sailed long and Lady Bear Charleigh Mefford answered with consecutive service points of her own with an ace pushing the lead to 10-6.
Mefford’s service error gave the Lady Jackets hope, but Chyanna Harris spiked the ball out off an MHS player. Katelyn Reynolds came on to serve and Whitney Stevens had two kills during a 5-0 run that put Harlan County up 15-7. Middlesboro got a pair of kills from Karrah Hart later in the set but the Lady Bears went on to the 25-12 win.
Set number two played out much the same way. Two strong serves from Foister helped the Lady Jackets to a 2-0 lead before Harlan County came back and tied things at three on when MHS was called for a net violation. Stevens ripped an ace and two other serves the Lady Jackets weren’t able to return and the Lady Bears never looked back.
Adreana Lefevers provided a service point for the Lady Jackets and later won a point at the net to bring Middlesboro within 14-8. From there the Lady Bears scored 11 of the final 16 points in the set. Reynolds closed it out with consecutive serves that were unreturnable and Harlan County took the set 25-13.
“They serve the ball really well. We actually did a much better job of service return than we did the last time we played against them,” Spradlin said.
Three service points from Reynolds midway through the third set put the Lady Bears up 9-5. The Lady Jackets got kills from Hart and Moyers to get as close as 13-10, but a service error again opened the door for Harlan County.
Lauren Lee provided two service points and Harris won a point at the net to extend the lead to 19-12. With Foister serving, the Lady Jackets got a strong kill from Hart and an attack error by the Lady Bears brought MHS within 21-17.
Stevens stopped the run with a kill and then served out the match. Reynolds won two points at the net and the Lady Jackets weren’t able to control Stevens’ final serve as Harlan County took the third set 25-17.
Hart led Middlesboro with six kills in the match while Foister had a team-high six service points.
“About three weeks ago something clicked for Karrah. Ever since then she’s been burning it up and doing a really good job,” Spradlin said. “She’s still like a fish in the net sometimes, though, and we have to reel her back in. The girls have improved dramatically and Karrah is a good example of that. Brooke Foister is another, she’s playing varsity ball as an 8th-grader and she’s good at it. It’s just a matter of putting it all together.”
Stevens finished with six kills to pace the Lady Bears while Reynolds added five to go along with three other points she won at the net. Lee had three kills, Brittany Clem two and Harris two. Reynolds had 14 service points while Stevens added 11, she and Mefford had two aces each.
Harlan County (18-8) advances to face host Bell County in the 52nd District championship match Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Middlesboro finishes the season with a record of 5-21. All six Lady Jacket starters will be back next season.
“These girls have came a long way and we’ve got some strong kids coming up. Our future is looking bright,” Spradlin said. “We’re going to have a much better season next year. Look out Harlan County, we’re coming back.”