The Bell County Lady Cats edged host Harlan 17-25, 25-18, 27-25 in a possible 52nd District Tournament preview on Monday.
The Lady Cats led early in the first set, before Harlan rallied for the win.
A spike from Danielle Parks gave Bell County its biggest lead at 15-10. However, the Lady Cats self-destructed from that point. Bell failed to return the ball three times, and had two infractions in the next five points as the Lady Dragons tied the game at 15.
Torri Mitchell gave Harlan its first lead with a service point to make it 16-15. Taylor Hall scored on a tip on the next point as the Lady Dragons began to pull away. Harlan led 23-17 when Hall scored two straight points on spikes and Desiree Bowman closed the game with another spike.
“I think the girls recognized where they messed up and came back and fixed it,” said Harlan coach Tara Bailey. “This is a team we could play in the district tournament, so to play well against them should give the girls a lot of confidence.”
Bell County took another early lead in the second set, but unlike the first set, the Lady Cats never relinquished the advantage.
Parks had five of the first seven points to power Bell to a 7-2 advantage. The Lady Dragons responded, and an ace from Taylor Cochran cut the deficit to just one, but Harlan was unable to get any closer. A Harlan return was out on the ensuing point, and Kaitlyn Dean’s service accounted for three of the next four points as the Lady Cats quickly reestablished control.
There were 12 ties or lead changes in a back-and-forth final set.
The teams exchanged points early in the final contest before Parks gave the Lady Cats 10-8 advantage with a service point. Bowman answered with a spike for a point on the next rally, but Bell went on a 6-2 run that saw the lead grow to 16-11.
However, the Lady Cats were unable to put the game out of reach.
Sydney Gray’s return was long on the following point, and Amber Rouse and Cochran scored on a tip and service ace respectively to make it 16-14. Bell built its lead to six points at 20-14 when the Lady Dragons began a final rally. A Mitchell dig and spike from Bowman sparked a run that cut then deficit to three.
Bell County’s lead remained at three when Hall scored on a tip to make it 22-20. The Lady Cats’ net two returns were out and Harlan pulled even at 22. After trading points, Bell County regained the advantage after Rouse served into the net. The lead was short-lived, as Hall scored on a spike and Bowman added a service point to give the Lady Dragons a match-point opportunity at 25-24. The Lady Cats stayed alive as Cochran crossed the line after falling to the floor on the next point to tie the game at 25. Harlan’s return was out on the next point, and Bell’s Katie Jarvis delivered a spike in the ensuing rally to secure the win for the Lady Cats.
“After they beat us in the first set, I told the girls it was up to them,” said Bell County coach Amber Hinkle. “They left it all out on the court and finally pulled one out.”
Bell County won 21-11, 21-14 in the junior varsity contest.
Bell County (5-14 overall, 3-1 district) will host Thomas Walker today, while Harlan (7-6 overall, 2-4 district) will travel to Knox Central on Sept. 25.