TIMES TRIBUNE (CORBIN, Ky.)
By Mitch Howard / CNHI News Service
SOUTH LAUREL — Not many people can say they have done something that has never been done before. The North Laurel Lady Jaguars can with Tuesday’s three-set win over South Laurel.
Neither coach thought the Lady Jaguars 25-22, 25-15, 25-15 win was due to the weight of a long-running streak. It was more about current players and not previous teams.
“Any time you play North it’s a big game, but I don’t think that was it. I think we came out in the first set ready to play,” South Laurel coach Mitzi Jones said.
Jones did know the history of the rivalry, but North Laurel’s first-year coach Haley Ratliff is learning as she goes.
“I’m new to this whole scenario. I don’t know who is supposed to beat who,” Ratliff said. “I expect everybody’s best game and that’s what I told the girls.”
Ratliff found out Thursday night after beating Corbin that the Lady Jaguars had nothing but losses against South Laurel. She also did not know until after the Corbin game her team had beaten the defending district and region champion. So while many may have seen North Laurel as the underdog due to the streak, Ratliff saw an experienced team playing a rival.
“North has seven seniors. South is young. They don’t understand that whole rivalry thing yet or the history. They are a good young team and they will be a team to reckon with,” Ratliff said.
What the coaches agreed played a big role in North Laurel’s win was a nail biting first set that finally went North Laurel’s way. There were nine ties and three lead changes with neither team leading by more than three points.
“We always come out and play slow in the first set. We usually get beat in the first set. It surprises me when we win,” Ratliff said.
After North Laurel took a 16-15 lead on two straight kills by Marsha Boggs, they would not trail again. There would be three more ties with the last at 20-20. Sam Napier broke that tie with a cross court kill. Miscommunication on a serve made it a 22-20 lead.
“We are playing very emotional. If we do something bad we collapse,” Jones said.
South Laurel was still within a point at 23-22 on a block by Katie Reynolds. A net serve and a tip that landed out of bounds would give the Lady Jaguars the final two points they needed.
“One thing would fall apart and then another one would fall apart. Passes would get bad and then everything else kind of escalated,” Jones said.
The second set started much the same with four ties and three lead changes before North Laurel took the lead 6-5 on a South Laurel kill that caught the net. North Laurel pushed the lead to 15-6 and maintained at least a five-point lead from there.
“It gets harder each time you lose,” Jones said.
There would be only one lead change in the third set when Kelsey Hacker scored to make it a 2-1 game. Bad sets and bad serves by South Laurel allowed North Laurel to push the lead to 10-5. After a South Laurel point, the Lady Jaguars would start topull away. First a Lady Cardinals serve sailed out. Then North Laurel scored an ace when the Lady Cardinals let a serve drop untouched. A Hacker block made it a 13-6 lead. A North Laurel kill made it 14-6.
South Laurel would rally with five straight points behind the serves of Whitney Wilt. A Hacker kill stopped the rally and the Lady Cardinals would not score consecutive points again.
“I told the girls big win, but tomorrow you better come in and be ready to go because we’ve got things to make up for,” Ratliff said.