Lady Cats capture second straight district title


Bell County’s Makenna Lefevers went airborne at the net as Harlan County’s Lindsey Browning prepared for a block in championship game action Tuesday in the 52nd District Tournament.

With 10 seniors back from the program’s first district championship team in 13 years, the Bell County Lady Cats had lofty expectations for the 2020 season.
That was until it appeared the coronavirus pandemic could wipe out the season and those expectations turned to fear there would be no 2020 season.
“We were afraid we weren’t going to get to play,” said Bell County coach Shawn Fultz after the Lady Cats knocked off Harlan County 25-10, 25-14, 25-15 in the 52nd District Tournament finals on Tuesday at Bell County. “They didn’t want their careers to end without winning again. We have 10 seniors and that helps a whole lot. These girls have been working hard all year.”
After losing the first set, Harlan County stayed close for much of the second. Clara Bolinger and Madison Ford each served in 5-0 runs as the Lady Cats pulled away.
Lindsey Browning and Brenna Early helped the Lady Bears grab a 5-0 lead in the third set, but Bell rallied again with nine straight points, capped by an ace from Alli Wilder. Raegan Robbins, the tournament’s most valuable player, had a kill as Bell pulled away for the sweep.
Early led the 5-10 Lady Bears with four service aces and one dig. Browning had three digs, two kills and one block. Lilly Caballero, Kateria Lewis and Gracie Ewing added one dig each. Kamryn Hoiska had one service ace and one kill. Caballero also had a block.
Robbins led the 14-6 Lady Cats with 24 digs, 18 assists, nine service aces and four kills. Makenna Lefevers added 27 digs, six service aces, two assists and five kills. Lauren Fultz had 20 digs. Ford added 21 digs, eight service aces and eight kills. Rachel Eldridge added eight digs, three assists and one kill. Bolinger had eight digs, six kills, two service aces and two blocks. Wilder had three service aces, two assists, three kills and one dig. Riley Cobb had two digs.
Both teams advance to the 13th Region Tournament.
After watching their nine-year streak of regional tournament appearances end last year, the Harlan County Lady Bears are going back this season following a four-set win over Middlesboro on Monday in the first round of the 52nd District Tournament at Bell County High School.
“It’s an awesome feeling for this to be my second year coaching and the girls are going to region,” Harlan County coach Christina Spurlock said. “You practice all season for this. Win or lose tomorrow, I couldn’t be more proud. They will end the season on a high note, that’s all I could ask for.”
Harlan County moved into Tuesday’s district championship game against Bell County with a 25-15, 17-25, 25-21, 25-17 over the Lady Jackets.
“The girls battled hard tonight. They started making little mistakes in the second match and Middlesboro took over,” Spurlock said. “The third set we got our momentum back and finished the night on a big win.”
Lindsey Browning led the 5-9 Lady Bears with four service aces, six kills and one block. Gracie Ewing had three service aces. Lilly Caballero led in kills with five, along with three digs and one service ace. Kamryn Hoiska had one service ace and one kill. Kateria Lewis added one service ace and one dig. Emily Eldridge had one service ace and one kill. Brenna Early added one service ace.
Caballero and Browning closed out the first set with kills, but Middlesboro took control of the second set early Chloe Burchette serving and never trailed to tie the match at 1-1.
Burchette gave Middlesboro a 4-0 lead in the third set, but the Lady Bears battled back. The score was tied several times late in the set before Caballero turned the momentum with her energy, diving twice to keep points alive. HCHS closed with a 7-3 run to go up 2-1.
Gracie Ewing had a couple of aces as the Lady Bears scored the first five points of the fourth. Middlesboro battled back behind Emalee Sullivan before Browning took over for HCHS. The Lady Bears put the set away with a 7-2 run after Middlesboro pulled within three, at 18-15.
Middlesboro ended the season with a 1-13 record.
Bell County advanced with a 25-16, 25-16, 25-4 win over Harlan in the opening match of the tournament.
The Lady Cats improved to 13-6 overall and stayed unbeaten in district competition to set up their chance for a district championship repeat.
Harlan stayed close in the opening set, trailing 20-5 when Bell’s Clara Bolinger had two straight kills to start a 5-1 run to close the set.
Bell went on a 9-1 run to close out the second set as Rachel Eldridge and Bolinger each had aces.
“She’s a real good server and good player,” Bell County coach Shawn Fultz said of Lefevers. “We’re going to miss her next year, along with all the girls.”
The Lady Cats dominated the third set, beginning with a couple of service points by Raegan Robbins. Lefevers had several aces in a 12-0 run that pushed the lead to 18-2. Madison Ford had a couple of kills to close out the set.
“Ford is.a good player well, and this is only her second year. She is a strong hitter,” Fultz said. “Robbins is leading the state in aces, and she’s a great setter. I appreciate all of her efforts this year.”
Lefevers led Bell with 12 service aces, 27 digs, 10 kills and one block. Robbins had 22 assists, 22 digs, four service aces and three kills. Hannah Clark contributed 24 digs and one assist. Ford had 14 digs and nine kills. Bolinger added service aces, six digs and seven kills.
Bailee Maples led the 3-8 Lady Dragons with 20 digs and five assists. Taylor Hall added 16 digs and two assists. Carley Thomas had 14 digs, one service ace, three digs and one kill. Marissa Marlowe added 12 digs, one service ace, seven assists and four kills. Campbell Nunez contributed 12 digs and four kills. Kendyll Blanton had 10 digs and three assists. Ella Farley added one dig.