On their way to their 11th win in 11 games this season, the Harlan Lady Dragons experienced adversity for the first time on Thursday at Harlan County.
Harlan had just lost its first set of the entire season on the road against its closest rival and was clinging to a 20-19 lead in the fourth set, in danger of being forced to play a fifth and final set for the first time this year.
It was about that time that senior Jesse Cochran decided there had been enough excitement for one night.
Harlan County missed a chance to tie and gave the ball back to the Lady Dragons and Cochran, who recorded four straight points off her serve, including three aces, to cap a 25-22, 25-19, 20-25 25-19 win.
“When her serves are on they are deadly,” said Harlan coach Tara Posey, who said her Lady Dragons may be going through a midseason slump despite their perfect 11-0 record. “We’re just playing kind of tired and sluggish. We may be getting too comfortable. We’re not playing as aggressive or with as much excitement or energy. They need to relax and talk and be more energetic.”
“She is just a heck of a player,” said Harlan County coach Stacy Noe, who was pleased with his team’s improvement since a loss at Harlan earlier in the season.
“We are improving, and we were right there with them every set. We let it slip away with mental mistakes, but I thought our whole team played well. They played their hearts out against a tough team. Harlan is very good, but I believe they know there is another team in this district.”
Taylor Smith and Emma Bianchi each had big nights for Harlan as Smith had 31 digs, six set assists and three aces and Bianchi added 29 digs, 16 kills and one block. Callie WIlson contributed 12 digs, seven kills and two aces. Sydney Horton had 13 set assists, 17 digs and three aces. Cochran added 12 kills, eight aces, seven blocks and five digs. Jasmine Honeycutt had 12 digs, six kills and one block.
Haley Blakley led the 5-3 Lady Bears with six kills, five digs, four aces and seven service points. Morgan Burke had four kills, five digs, two aces and five service points. Miranda Cook contributed five kills, four digs, four aces and six service points. Natalie Middleton had three aces, seven service points, three digs, a block and four kills. Chelsey Noe had eight assists, three service points, two digs and a block. Elyse Turner added four service points, four assists and two digs. Valaree Day had one block, three aces and four service points. Kimber Collins had four aces, five service points and two assists.
After winning the first two sets, Harlan raced to a 4-0 lead in the third with Smith serving.
Cook had a couple of kills to bring HCHS back, then followed with an ace as the Lady Bears scored three straight points to build a 13-10 lead.
Harlan led 16-15 when the Lady Bears went on a 5-0 run behind Middleton and Blakley. Harlan closed to within one on a Cochran kill, but HCHS closed the set with three straight points.
Cochran and Bianchi helped Harlan build a 12-7 lead in the fourth set, but HCHS was able to stay close with the help of several mistakes by the Lady Dragons. Harlan County cut the deficit to 20-19 when Noe and Middleton each scored, but three Cochran aces and a Bianchi kill helped Harlan close out the set.
Harlan won 21-17, 5-21 and 21-16 in junior varsity action. Madison Middleton led Harlan with 20 digs, six aces and six kills. Alyssa Moses had nine digs, two aces and one kill. Courtney Cozart contributed 10 digs, three aces and one kill. Savanna Smith had four digs and two kills. AnnMarie Bianchi added three kills, three aces and six digs. Haven Saylor had nine digs, three set assists and our aces.
Krista Burke, Madison Blanton, Sophia Sergent, Elizabeth Ball and Abby Stevens led Harlan County.
The Lady Bears won 21-18, 21-8 in freshman action. Elizabeth Ball, Emily Long, Brooklyn Collins, Olivia Minor, Lori Barton and Courtney Polk led HCHS.
Middleton led Harlan with six aces, three digs and two kills. Saylor had two digs and two set assists. Emma Fisher contributed three digs. Hannah Jones had one ace and two digs.
Harlan County (5-3) travels to Jenkins on Saturday. The Lady Dragons play host to Bell County on Monday.
Harlan ran its record to 10-0 with a 28-26, 25-20 win Tuesday over visiting Barbourville.
Emma Bianchi led the Lady Dragons with 13 kills and seven digs. Taylor Smith had eight digs, seven set assists, three aces and one kill. Callie Wilson added 11 digs, two set assists, one ace and one kill. Sydney Horton contributed six set assists, five digs and one ace. Jesse Cochran had four aces, six kills and 12 digs. Jasmine Honeycutt had six digs, three kills and one ace. AnnMarie Bianchi added one dig.
Harlan won 21-8, 21-16 in junior varsity action.
Madison Middleton led the Lady Dragons with six aces and three kills. AnnMarie Bianch contributed five aces and one kill. Haven Saylor had four aces, one dig and one set assist. Courtney Cozart added three aces. Alyssa Moses had one ace and two digs. Savanna Smith contributed two aces. Hannah Jones added one kill and one dig. Rylee Meachum contributed an ace. Lauren Nunez and Alli Witt added one dig each. Abbi Witt had one kill.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134