To say that Harlan County dominated the 52nd District in 2013 would be an understatement. Not only did the Lady Bears finish unbeaten against district opponents, they didn’t lose a set in eight games. Harlan County completed one of the most dominant district performances in recent memory Tuesday with a straight-set victory over host Bell County to capture its second straight title.
“The girls came out real strong. They always seem to get the energy to come back. I am just so proud of them. They have worked hard together,” said Harlan County coach Donna Vicini. “They are one of the best groups I have had that works as a team. They have done a tremendous job.”
The Lady Bears behind 6-2 early in the opening set. The deficit was quickly erase, as Harlan County scored on five straight Whitney Stevens serves to take a two-point lead. Katelyn Reynolds scored the final point of the rally on a kill. Stevens next serve was long to make it 8-7, but the Lady Bears put together another run to take control. This time, Harlan County scored six straight to push the advantage to 14-7. Bell County was unable to get closer than four the rest of the way, as the Lady Bears held on 25-19.
Harlan County rallied to edge Bell 25-23 in a second set that swung all of the momentum to the Lady Bears.
Chyanna Harris scored on a push midway through the game as Harlan County appeared to be in full control with a 19-11 lead. However, Bell County’s Grace Barnett and Danielle Parks combined to score seven of the next 12 points to give the Lady Cats a 22-20 lead. Harris stopped the skid with a spike for a point and Stevens followed with a kill to tie the game at 23. A Bell County return was long on the following point, and the Lady Cats hit the ball out on the next rally as Harlan County held on for the win.
“They really had to come back in the second set. Bell County came at them hard,”Vicini said. “One thing about this team is they don’t get down very often. They stay up, and that is how you win a game.”
Bell County led by two halfway through the third and final set. Reynolds started a late run with a kill to make it 16-15. Reynolds, Stevens and Harris each had kills down the stretch as Harlan County closed the set on an 11-3 run to win 25-19.
Stevens had five aces, four kills, one tip and a service point to pace the Lady Bears. Harris recorded four aces, four kills, and a service point. Reynolds delivered nine kills, three tips and three aces. Lee had two service points, a tip and two aces. Charleigh Mefford had four service points, a tip and an ace, while Clem added an ace, a spike and a tip.
The Lady Bears turned in a solid performance at the net thanks in large part to setters Lauren Lee and Brittany Clem.
“Lauren and Brittany are two great setters. They really contributed to the success of this team,” Vicini said.
Stevens earned 52nd District Tournament Most Valuable Player honors. She was joined on the all-tournament team by Mefford, Harris, Clem, Reynolds and Lee. Harlan’s Danielle Miller and Paige Woodsby were also named to the all-tournament team.
Both Harlan County (19-8) and Bell County (13-15) will return to action Saturday in the 13th Region Tournament at Jackson County.