The Lady Longhorns Varsity run ended much like it began earlier in the year at the Jamboree in Unicoi. Like a roller coaster ride, Johnson Countys volleyball team had several big wins and just as many losses but kept on fighting right through the last game of the last match. Facing an extremely tough conference run, the Lady Longhorns actually got the first pick they wanted, traveling to Erwin to take on the Sullivan North Lady Golden Raiders in the first round of the district tournament.
Regrettably, a slow start only got worse as problems on the offense left Johnson County struggling through two quick losses. As head coach Eric Crabtree pointed out, trouble following the first few serves ultimately determined the outcome of the match. We scrambled all night, Crabtree said. We never play well on Mondays, and we started off bad. We were kind of in it at the beginning but then North went up 15 in the first game and we were kind of flat from there. That kind of set the tone for the night. I called time outs, tried to stop it, but we just couldnt get it. Once you get down like that its hard to get back up.
Johnson County eventually made it to 15 in the first round, but that was still 10 points shy of the win at 25. Unfortunately things went steadily downhill, and in a very quick second game Johnson County wasnt able to even reach double digits. The main problem was difficulty offensively, especially when it came to passing. We worked on serve receive all week and thats been our downfall all year, Crabtree said. North played well, but we had more mistakes. We handed it to them. We didnt serve receive, we didnt pass well, we didnt set well, we didnt attack well. You cant expect to win many ball games like that.
Things did improve slightly in Johnson Countys third and final game, getting behind early at 9-16 and then battling back 16-19 thanks to a valiant effort from players like Sarah Tierney. Much like fellow senior Rachel Poteet, Tierney was well in control on the serve. According to Crabtree, North played consistent and about the only thing we did consistent tonight was serve. That third game we showed some fire and started passing better, played some defense and started coming back, but it wasnt enough when youre already down two nothing.
Johnson County eventually climbed to 20, making it the best game of the match, but the effort proved fruitless as the Lady Raiders put in two back to back volleys that ultimately gave them the win at 25. We didnt get into a good offense all night, Crabtree said. Usually Rachel Poteet, Brooke Brown, and Brionna Reece have 8-10 kills to a game and I dont know that they got 3 or 4 quality swings all night. It all came from serve receive. Our passing was just not where it needed to be and if you cant get good passes youre not going to get much of an offense.
Although the combination of a tough conference lineup and an influx of new and younger players created challenges for the Lady Longhorns, next season is looking bright. With several returning veteran players and a solid junior varsity lineup to fill in the gaps, volleyball in Johnson County should be in good shape. Yet, even with some trouble along the way this seasons team can still be proud of their effort, knowing that through thick and thin they left everything on the court.