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Harlan eases by MHS with 3-0 win

From start to finish, Harlan controlled Monday’s district tournament game against Middlesboro. The Lady Dragons won in three straight sets to advance to Tuesday’s district championship against Harlan County.

The Lady Jackets never seemed to find their footing scoring in double digits only once — a 25-10 loss in the second set. Middlesboro dropped the first set 25-7 and the third 25-9.

“I’m sad. I’m disappointed,” said Middlesboro coach Sidni Schneider. “We’ve had a lot of injuries this season, and it’s been a building year. These last few games have been tough, but they work hard. It just didn’t show tonight.”

The Lady Jackets opened the third set with a 2-0 lead before Brandi Haywood got a kill to cut the lead to 2-1. A Chandler Weaver point was countered by an AnnMarie Bianchi kill to keep the deficit at one.

From that point on, it was all Harlan (16-19). The Lady Dragons went on a 14-point rally to secure a 16-3 lead with Bianchi ending the run with a kill.

Middlesboro was able to score two points around a Hayword kill to bring the score to 17-4 before the Lady Dragons went on another rally halfway through the third set. Bianchi racked up six consecutive points on the serve to pull away to a 23-5 lead. She had four aces during that stint.

Middlesboro was able to go on a short three-point run to cut the deficit to 23-8 after the two teams put their second rotation in the game. The Lady Jackets squeezed one more point on the scoreboard before Harlan walked away with the 25-9 set victory and the match.

Bianchi led the Lady Dragons with 14 kills, four aces, four assists and two digs. Haywood had nine kills, along with one block and one dig. Haven Saylor contributed eight aces, 13 assists and one dig. Courtney Cozart had eight assists, one kill, one ace and two digs. Madison Middleton added five kills, six digs, one set, one ace and one block. Taylor Simpson had three kills, one dig, one assist and one ace. Ai-yana Harriston added three aces, one dig and one set. Lauren Nunez added one assist and Emma Fisher contributed one kill.

Middlesboro ends the year with four victories on the season — Pineville, Bell County, Lynn Camp and Barbourville.

“We had a good season I feel like,” said Schneider. “Some matches we won one or two but didn’t go all the way. Some we should’ve won but didn’t. The girls worked especially hard when we had starters out.”

The Lady Jackets graduate three seniors: Brooke Foister, Timesha Brooks and Siara Minton.

“My seniors showed up since day one. They’ve worked hard,” said the first-year head coach. “It’s sad to see them go. They were an important part of our team. Their leadership this year has been awesome.”

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Harlan County (15-6) survived a close call to advance, defeating the host Lady Cats 23-25, 25-18, 19-25, 25-21, 15-6.

“We were flat all night long and our service game didn’t show up until the last set,” Harlan County coach Stacy Noe said. “We just didn’t play to win and give Bell credit they wanted it bad tonight. Miranda (Cook), Chelsey (Noe) and Kimberly (Collins) led us in service points tonight and Emily Long was big around the net. We went away from what got us here and didn’t play for each other and seemed to be nervous because it is one game and your done if you lose. Hopefully, this is our bad game and we will be more prepared tomorrow night. If we play the way we are capable of we can play with anyone and if we don’t we aren’t very good. We can’t just show up and expect to win.”

Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN