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Lady Longhorns reach District 1-AA Semifinals

The JCHS Volleyball Team reached the District Semifinals for the second year in a row last week, first defeating Unicoi County 25-18, 25-14, 25-21 before falling to eventual champion Sullivan East 9-25, 15-25, 13-25.
The Lady Longhorns played quite possibly their best match of the year in the play-in match last Tuesday against Unicoi as everything that could go right did go right.
All-Conference players Miranda Payne and Sarah Swift both showed why as they were clicking on all cylinders and players like Shannon Main, Katelynn Stout, Haley Miller, Ashley Arnold, Linnea Yongue and Ashleigh Weaver all followed suit.
Priscilla Herman contributed as well with some key serves and overall it was absolutely at total team effort for JCHS.
The team effort showed in the third game when Unicoi was leading the Lady Longhorns for most of the frame and JCHS pulled things together and took over.
The hitting was there, the sets were good and the defense was outstanding for JCHS.
“We took a timeout and we go stretches where we play great and then all of a sudden one bad hit and it's like contagious and I told them to just play,” JCHS head coach Eric Crabtree said. “They didn't change anything, but they just loosened up and made some great digs. We got some balls up that probably we shouldn't have and I told them once we get back even the pressure will be on them. Sarah Swift did such an amazing job serving and we were able to get back in the game and pull it off.”
JCHS will be losing three key seniors in Miranda Payne, Shannon Main and Priscilla Herman who have received a lot of deserved attention for their efforts, but the junior class has had some very strong performances this year as well and it showed on this night.
Swift and Weaver kind of go unnoticed at times because of the positions they play, but they have been great leaders on this team and they played very well against Unicoi County.
Linnea Yongue also showed her improvement by netting some great hits on the evening.
“We're a very balanced team,” Crabtree said. “When you have eight juniors you're going to have some good junior play out of them. They've really stepped up and improved all year and that's made the seniors even better. It's been a total group effort.”
Against East, the Lady Longhorns started slow against the powerful Lady Patriots, but found a groove early in game two and led 10-6.
Volleyball is a game of momentum and once East was able to regain the momentum, the Lady Longhorns just couldn't recover.
Sullivan East is a very fundamentally sound team and shows just how skilled they are. East went through a couple of lulls, but it went on to take control.
“At times we played well, we just didn't do it for long stretches,” Crabtree said. “We weren't moving well and our passing wasn't spot on and we didn't get a lot of good attacks. We just couldn't get good passes to get good sets and we scrambled all night.”
The Lady Longhorns will now go back to the drawing board for next year, but JCHS Volleyball seems to be on the rise.
Next year will be Coach Crabtree's third season and even though the Lady Longhorns are losing some key people that will be tough to replace, a foundation has been set for the future and people are going to have to take notice at what Coach Crabtree, Coach Mary Mays and the Lady Longhorns are building in Mountain City.
“We have to be consistent and be more confident passers, hitters, setters and servers and do it for an hour and a half each night,” Crabtree said. “It will be hard to replace those three girls and they mean the world to us, but we have some girls who can come in and play, we just have to get better with our consistency.”
In addition to Payne and Swift earning all-conference honors, Payne was named to the All-District Tournament Team.