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Girls lose tough volleyball match to Avery County

After a close and exciting win against the Lady Vikings at home earlier in the season, the Lady Longhorns faced much different conditions in the gym of Avery County High School last week. Holding strong in the first game of the match, Johnson County never could quite get the upper hand, setting them back for the whole match with a noticeable lack of energy.
The score remained tied through the first few serves, with the Lady Longhorns matching Avery point for point. Unfortunately, when the Lady Vikings pulled ahead 6-5 they went into a run that saw them climb to 12 before Johnson County managed nine. Losing that critical momentum the Lady Longhorns found themselves in a slump that lasted throughout the remainder of the first game and ultimately the match.
“Avery played well,” said Coach Eric Crabtree. “We didn’t play very well and there’s a lot of factors why. A lot of it has to do with the fact that we were off from school, we missed the first day back. It was a long day, a long bus trip over. It was almost like playing on a Monday and we never play well on a Monday.”
Regardless of the reasons, there was an obvious difference between the way the girls played in Newland compared to some of their recent matches. Although there were a few positives, especially when it came to serves from players like Rachel Poteet and Brooke Brown, there was also a significant lack in other areas, especially in making critical saves. Even when there was good contact the ball seemed to have a mind of its own flying wildly out of bounds or getting caught by the net. There were few actual attacks on the offense, and even those points that were in Johnson County’s favor were usually from mistakes made by the Lady Vikings.
“Tonight we just didn’t make any plays,” Coach Crabtree said.  “Even when we played at South we kept the energy up because we were making some good plays. I don’t know that there was less effort at this game, as much as more frustration. Here our energy was down. Tonight there was no excitement, and a lot of that was discouragement. A lot of it came from frustration. Early in that first game we were right with them up to around 14 and then it fell apart. We never got the momentum and we just never could sustain it.”
The first game closed out 12-25, and the second didn’t go much better. Avery was already at eight by the time the Lady Longhorns had put up their second point. Thankfully, a brief span of good fortune with Poteet on the serve saw Johnson County piece together a four-point rally, but it was quickly offset by yet another strong turn from Avery. Sarah Tierney had a notable performance as she brought in one of the only aces of the night to land the Longhorns at 10, but this only served to delay the inevitable as the Lady Vikings soared into the upper teens. By the end of the second game, the Lady Longhorns were in a little better shape at 15, but still 10 behind Avery at 25.
Playing best three out of five, the match was on the line as the Lady Longhorns took to the floor in the third game. Johnson County gained the initiative with the first point of the round, only to face an Avery County rally that ended up giving them four in a row. The Lady Longhorns got their second point on an out-of-bounds serve, which the Lady Vikings quickly corrected with four more shots. Johnson County struggled on throughout the rest of the game, but at 4-10 the chances of staying in the match quickly dwindled.
Poteet was able to come to her team’s aid again late in the game, showing some aggression on the offense that resulted in a six-point run, yet Avery still retained the lead 10-16. Johnson County eventually landed at 12 and stalled once again while the Lady Vikings climbed into the low 20s. A final out of bounds serve pushed the Lady Longhorns to 13 where they finished out the tough loss.
Considering Johnson County’s big win over the same team just a few weeks ago, Coach Crabtree was obviously very disappointed with the results. “We just got out-played,” the coach said. “We just didn’t play very well tonight. We served well but we just couldn’t get enough attacks. Our defense wasn’t good enough. The other team just played better than we did tonight and that happens sometimes. I don’t think they were better than us, but they played better than us. When it comes to the end of the day, it doesn’t matter about bus trips, it doesn’t matter about layoffs, it doesn’t matter about anything, you’ve got to show up.”