After two straight district titles and back-to-back trips to the regional semifinals, the Harlan County Lady Bears have set the bar high for the 2014 squad.
“I expect our girls to be there at the end,” said Harlan County coach Donna Vicini, who has led HCHS to three district titles in the past four seasons. “We still have some work ahead of us to get back to where we were at the end of last season, but I think we will get there. I am really hopeful this will be a good year.
Three starters are back for the Lady Bears, including seniors Brittany Clem and Charleigh Mefford and 6-foot-1 junior Katelyn Reynolds.
“It’s a balanced team,” Vicini said. “These girls really improve a lot from their freshmen year to their junior and senior years.”
Candice Huff, Celina Hatmaker and Shelby Cowan, the Lady Bears’ other three seniors, are expected to round out the lineup.
“These girls play together, and I think we’ll have a good year. All our girls are making progress” Vicini said. “Our spikers have really improved and our setters are doing a good job. Celina has improved tremendously, and Candice and Shelby are also going to be very important to our success this year.”
Harlan County remains the favorite in the 52nd District as the only team last year to post a winning record. Middlesboro finished 5-21 overall and 0-8 in district competition. Harlan was 6-22 overall and 2-6 in the district. Bell County finished 13-16 overall and 7-3 in the district, including a loss to Harlan County in the district finals.
“I think we have a good chance at doing very well again,” Vicini said. “We picked up a lot of freshmen to keep the program building.”
Harlan County opened its schedule Aug. 18 against Jenkins and played host to defending regional champ Whitley County on Aug. 19.