Despite playing hard all evening, the Johnson County Lady Longhorns couldnt get a break against the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones on the road. Although there were several moments where any of the three games could have gone the other way, the Lady Longhorns were faced with a three consecutive loss match. We just didnt get the balances, said Coach Eric Crabtree. Their ball would go in and ours would go just that far out, they would make a save, it just wasnt our night. It wasnt about effort; we could just never get the momentum.
Playing against the Lady Cyclones on their senior night, with a lot of Elizabethton support in the stands, Johnson County was faced with a disadvantage from the very beginning. The team did not back down, actually taking the initiative with an early lead in the first game 2-1. Elizabethton was quick to catch back up, taking the lead and forcing the Lady Longhorns to fight for every point. Stalling at 7, Elizabethton was forced to watch as Johnson County climbed from a five-point deficit to tie up the game. The Lady Cyclones jumped ahead once again, but the Lady Longhorns were never far behind.
Following a kill by Caitlyn Stout to put the Lady Longhorns at 8, Sarah Swift delivered a series of very strong serves, kicking off with an ace to tie the game at 9. Unfortunately, luck started to favor the Lady Cyclones and before long Johnson County was once again behind by 5. A big save by Haley Miller helped put the Lady Longhorns up to 12, but still trailing Elizabethton at 18. Climbing to 15 both teams put up a strong effort resulting in a series of very long volleys, with some near misses at the net.
As the first game drew to a close the Lady Cyclones were still ahead by three, but Johnson County began to close in. Unfortunately a last point to put them at 22 did little to stop Elizabethton from getting the final two points they needed to win the game at 25.
Things only got worse in the second game with the Lady Cyclones jumping ahead by two before Johnson County could get their first. This set the pace all the way to the last few points, with the Lady Longhorns trailing just two or three points behind their opponent. Slowly but surely the difference in the lead began to dwindle, with several points where the Lady Longhorns even managed to tie it up. The real fight, and the most controversial volley of evening, happened when both teams were sitting at 23. Eager to get a win and stay in the match, the Lady Longhorns fought to take the lead for the first time. The action was right at the net and as Haley Miller went up to block, officials called the point for Elizabethton, indicating that Miller had over reached the net.
Debating the call, Coach Crabtree fought to have the point overturned, but the officials maintained their initial stance, costing Johnson County the lead and ultimately the win. Unable to get their first win, the second game had a big impact on the Lady Longhorns performance which Crabtree noted. If we could have won that second game it would have made a huge difference, Crabtree said. When you go one to one, its a new ball game, then its best two out of three and you never know whats going to happen. We just couldnt get the breaks, couldnt get the calls, especially that over-the-net call. Elizabethton had a girl that was doing even worse than her and they didnt call it. That would have given us the extra point to where we could have won 26-24 in the second game. There were a couple double hits that they had that were never called. There were enough missed calls in that second game to take it away from us, but we also missed enough. We had several chances to get the ball away and never did.
Disheartened by the earlier two losses, the Lady Longhorns did not battle quite as hard in the third round, even though they did maintain the lead for the first three volleys. There were a few points where it looked like the team might make a serious comeback, tying up the score on several occasions early on. Johnson County lost its composure again as the Lady Cyclones took the lead one final time at 9-10. Blasting up to 16 before the Lady Longhorns could get their next point, Elizabethton simply put too much distance behind them. The Lady Longhorns made a few more scores to ultimately battle back to 18 at the very end of the game, but by then the Lady Cyclones were already in the low twenties and poised to take the victory at 25.
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