Head coach Eric Crabtree got his first real opportunity to gauge the performance of this seasons Lady Longhorns volleyball team at a special summer camp tournament hosted by Emory and Henry College last week. Johnson County did very well playing against several schools from across Southwest Virginia, despite a few roster changes that saw several new faces on the court.
As Crabtree pointed out, both the junior varsity and varsity teams have grown in numbers this year, with a large class of junior players like Gianna Lay and Demi Blevins making the transition between the two. Things look promising for both groups of girls, with veteran players like Rachel Poteet, Brooke Brown, and Brionna Reece working well alongside their younger teammates.
Were still learning, Crabtree said. Weve got to make some adjustments, finding the right rotations, and finding the right people to go to where we need them. Gianna Lay and Demi Blevins are moving up from the JV, and actually a lot of them are moving up from JV last year. We have a lot of juniors and they are tall and athletic and are really going to help us in the long run. Theyve just got to learn how to play where Ive got them. For example, Demi has never played right side and now shes going to have to learn to play right side. Gianna has to learn how to play up on the net and not back. Theyre just things that as they learn theyre going to get better and better. Figuring out the new pieces to move around is going to take some time to gel, but so far weve done well.
Johnson Countys first match was against the Northwood Lady Panthers from Saltville. Playing best two out of three, the Longhorns were able to smash through the defense in their first round, thanks to some powerful hits by Rachel Poteet, and with an equally strong second round gained the momentum necessary to ultimately come out on top 25-19. New players like Sarah Tierney and Molly Crowder got their chance on the court, and did not disappoint as they held their own place in the rotation. Backed up with solid serves by players like Brooke Brown, and a strong performance at the net from Gianna Lay, and Johnson County quickly got on a roll that lasted all morning.
In fact, despite a few small issues, Crabtree seemed very pleased with the first games results, commenting particularly on the very strong showing from Poteet. Weve got a lot of good servers, the coach said. Brooke Brown has a great serve, Rachel Poteet has a great serve, Demi came in that last game with a great serve. The one thing that we do pretty well is serve, and those two or three right there are going to be a really big help to us. Weve also got some great hitters and Rachel has got to be one of the strongest. She does a little of everything. She plays offense, she plays defense, and as far as power, weve just got to get her the ball. The more we get her the ball the better she will be. Weve got some that can put the ball away and she is one of them who will.
The second match of the day was against Patrick Henry. Much like Northwood, the Lady Rebels simply couldnt match pace with the Lady Longhorns, even though there were a few early hits that brought the score within one or two serves. Possibly the closest came when Johnson County was leading by just one point at 11-10. Thankfully Johnson County never really lost their composure and after holding Patrick Henry to 11 boosted their own score to 15, ultimately giving enough of an advantage to finish up their first game 25-16. To their credit the Lady Rebels put up a strong fight in the second game, pulling together a late rally that came up just shy at 25-22.
One of the key positions that made this second win possible came from Tayla Clark, the teams new libero. Responsible for many of the passing hits during a match, Crabtree emphasized the importance of Clarks role, and his belief that she will develop into one of Johnson Countys biggest assets. Ninety-seven percent of the time Tayla does a really good job, said Crabtree. When she puts the whole thing together she will be just what we need her to be. She does a great job but she just needs to be a little more consistent. As the libero you have to be the most consistent passer on the floor. She does a good job for us; we just need to get more consistent.
To read the entire article, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.