Lady Lions end record-season with regional loss

Published 8:57 am Tuesday, October 24, 2023

By John Henson

Contributing Writer

CORBIN — In a season of firsts, the Pineville Lady Lions were in position to add the most impressive achievement to their list Saturday in the opening round of the 13th Region Tournament at Lynn Camp High School.

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Pineville led Harlan County two sets to one after winning both the second and third sets, but the Lady Bears rallied to win the next two to claim a 25-13, 25-27, 23-25, 25-7, 15-9 victory.

“We set out to have a season of firsts and we did that. We put up a poster in our locker room of school records so the girls could see our history and start making some history of their own, and they did it,” Pineville coach Samantha North said. “They broke countless records, including most wins in a season, made it to a 13th Region All A final and took a set from Williamsburg, earned the No. 1 seed and swept at the 51st District Tournament and took a very good Harlan County team to five in the first round of region. Proud just doesn’t seem like a strong enough word to describe these girls and what they accomplished.”

Pineville finished with a record of 18-11 while winning the first 51st District Tournament title in school history.

“It’s been such a fun season,” North said. “We barely had a week off after middle school season before we started back in with open gym and the girls were so focused and ready. Losing last year in the championship to Knox after winning the first set really set a fire under us and made the desperation to win kick up a notch. You graduate four seniors, three of which led our program in their respective positions, and you assume that the following year would be a rebuilding year, but this team didn’t see it that way.”

Harlan County started strong, racing to a 7-0 lead in the first set. Pineville cut the deficit to five with a 10-3 run before Kalista Dunn and Ashton Evans had kills to put the Lady Bears back in control. Evans and Kylee Hoiska closed out the set with a kill and ace, respectively.

Pineville grabbed an early lead in the second set with the Lady Bears battling from behind to pull even seven times before finally taking the lead at 22-21. Pineville closed with a 6-2 run to win the set.

The length of Pineville juniors Ava Arnett and Kamryn Bilter gave HCHS problems in the second and third sets. Harlan County took the lead late in the third set before the Lady Lions closed strong again and claimed another two-point victory.

HCHS dominated the fourth set, sparked by Lesleigh Brown’s serves and kills from Hoiska, Evans, Dunn and Savannah Hill.

The fifth set was tied at 5 when eighth grader Ashlynn Williamson recorded two straight aces in a 3-0 run. Dunn and Evarts had kills before Hoiska closed out the match with an ace.

Evans led HCHS with 27 digs, 18 kills and two assists. Dunn added 23 digs, 21 kills, four aces and six assists. Hill had 37 assists, 16 digs, two kills and one ace. Brown added 20 digs, four aces and two kills. Hoiska contributed five aces, five digs, eight kills, two assists and one block. Williamson chipped in with eight digs and four aces.

Arnett had a huge night for Pineville with 22 digs, 11 kills, 12 blocks and one service ace. Biliter had 18 digs, seven assists, five blocks, four aces and two kills. Addison Slone added 13 digs, five kills and four blocks. Brynlee Sizemore and Makayla Terrell each had 10 digs with Sizemore adding five assists. Mackenzie Caldwell added nine digs and one assist.

Harlan County improved to 19-9 with the victory and moved to within one win of tying the school record for victories set in 2013, The Lady Bears have also never made it past the semifinal round in the regional tournament. HCHS will play Corbin in the first semifinal at 6 p.m. on Monday. Bell County will take on Whitley County in the second semifinal. The championship game is set for Tuesday at 6.