By Mitch Howard / For the Times-Tribune
MCKEE – South Laurel never won more than two games in a row during the regular season. Four straight wins in the post season put them one win away from a 13th Region title.
“I’m not really surprised. We knew this was going to be a long road with them being so young,” South Laurel coach Mitzi Jones said. “Once they finally got a feel for each other and started realizing they could depend on each other they are seeing what they could accomplish. I’m very proud of them.”
The Lady Cardinals had not lost a set in the region tournament after claiming a straight-set win over Jackson County (25-19, 25-17, 25-20) in Monday’s semifinals.
The first set would be the most competitive with eight ties and three lead changes. The Lady Cardinals took the lead for good at 11-10 when a Jackson County kill landed out of bounds. Kaylee Norvell then served an ace and Jackson County muffed a set for a 13-10 South Laurel lead. The lead did not reach four points until an ace by Whitney Wilt made it 19-15. A net kill by Jackson County gave the Lady Cardinals a five-point lead. Despite two serve errors, the Lady Cardinals would put the game away with points at the net.
“We were prepared. We had played them a couple of times this year and we knew what to expect. They are a good team and we knew they would come out ready to play,” Jones said.
It looked like South Laurel would run away with the second set. The Lady Cardinals jumped ahead 10-0 with three aces from Norvell. South Laurel was also getting strong play at the net from Katelyn Spicer and Savannah Baxter. The Lady Generals would storm back after a timeout.
“I knew they would come back. We had a collision that kind of caused everybody to get off kilter for a minute,” Jones said.
Three aces from Kaylee Turner sparked the Lady Generals to six straight points. They would continue to rally and were within 18-17 on three straight miscues by the Lady Cardinals. South Laurel still didn’t look rattled.
“They don’t feel any pressure because in their minds nobody thought we would be here,” Jones said.
South Laurel would get the ball back on a serve error by the Lady Generals. They would score the final seven points to end the second set.
After a couple of early ties, the Lady Cardinals again seemed in control in the third set. They were leading 10-4 before a small surge by the Lady Generals. The Lady Cardinals recovered and seemed safely ahead at 23-15. South Laurel gave up five straight points on long kills and bad sets to pull within 23-20.
“Jackson County didn’t quit and we didn’t expect them to,” Jones said.
The Lady Generals comeback ended when a net serve gave South Laurel match point. The match ended when a Jackson County return fell out of bounds.
“I was so thankful when they hit that net serve,” Jones said. “Our serves were off, but theirs were too so it kind of made up for it.”
Despite the straight set win, Jones still sees plenty of room to grow for a team that includes just one senior and two juniors.
“We’re not there yet. We still have a way to go. When something happens we’ve gotten better at shaking off the bad things and coming back, but we still let it affect us,” Jones said.
Lady Cardinals' postseason run continues into region finals
By Mitch Howard / For the Times-Tribune
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