SOUTH LAUREL — It’s not how you start, but how you finish that determines the outcome a lot of times in sports.
Case in point — Corbin’s 3-0 (25-20, 25-11 and 25-19) win over Harlan in the semifinal round of the 13th Region Tournament.
After getting off to a slow start against Harlan in the first set, Corbin trailed the the Lady Dragons, 20-19, before freshman Lindsey Siler rattled off six straight service points to close out the set at 25-20. Once the first set was out of the way, the Lady Redhounds cruised the rest of the way and now move on to face South Laurel with a spot in the state volleyball tournament on the line.
After the win, Corbin coach Jason McDaniel said Harlan’s style may have been a factor in the early stages, but gave his squad credit for winning an ugly game and moving on in the tournament.
“It was kind of a different pace game because Harlan is a little bit unconventional when it comes to their style,” McDaniel said. “They will send the ball back over on one or two shots and that will upset out timing and I feel like that’s what happened.
“They also have some size to work with and they did a good job of working off their strengths in that first game, especially around the net,” he added. “I’ve been a round sports a long time and there’s almost always a time when you have to win one ugly, and that’s what we were able to do. The bottom line is we’re going to be playing for a region title and that’s where we want to be.”
After picking up the win in the first set, Corbin fell behind early in the second set before getting things together once again. The Lady Redhounds trailed 6-3, but put together a 21-4 run that all but closed out the second set. That run came mostly in the form of 15 straight points on serve from senior Faith Coppock, putting Corbin on top, 24-10, by the time it was over. The two teams traded points to close the set as Corbin grabbed the 25-11 win.
Although there were several ties early in the third set, Corbin never trailed the Lady Dragons. The two teams traded points until Corbin took the lead for good (6-5) thanks to another strong run of serves, this time from Natalie Wiseman, who strung together seven straight to put her team on top 13-5.
Corbin stumbled late in the final set as Harlan cut the deficit to two points (21-19) late in the contest, but Coppock was able to close out the win with three straight points on serve to give her team the 25-19 win.
After dropping a 3-2 loss to South Laurel last week in the finals of the 50th District Tournament, McDaniel said his team has what it wanted in a chance to play South Laurel one more time for the championship.
“We want to play South Laurel,” McDaniel said. “I’ll be honest — I think we gave away some points last week in the third set of that match when we were ahead, 11-2. Our serves got a little sloppy and we let them get back in that one.
“Later on in the match I think the wind just got taken out of our sails for some reason, but our girls are motivated,” he added. “The girls want to be here and they want to play South Laurel because they have been the best all year long. I like where we’re at and I like our chances. That’s all you can ask for in a match like this for the championship.”
Jesse Cochran led Harlan with five kills, four blocks and two set assists. Emma Bianchi had four kills, three blocks and three aces. Callie Wilson contributed an ace and three kills. Hannah Vaughn added three digs. Taylor Smith had an ace, one set assist and one dig. Shanae Thomas added one set assist.
Harlan ended the best season in school history with a record of 18-8.
“I am very proud of this team this year,” Harlan coach Tara Posey said. “Hannah Vaughn is the only player on the team who had previously been to the regional tournament. The others, I hope, gained a lot of experience and will be ready to go even further next season.”
Harlan County (5-24) was eliminated by South Laurel in the first round of the tournament. The Lady Cardinals won 25-6, 25-10, 25-14. South Laurel beat Jackson County 25-7, 25-10, 25-11 in the semifinals.