Despite coming up with two hard losses late in the week against Sullivan East and Unicoi County, the Lady Longhorns Volleyball team began last Monday with an excellent performance against the Tri-Cities Christian Lady Golden Eagles. Much like the first game of the season against Holston, the Lady Longhorns dominated their first three games to claim victory over the match. Yet the Lady Eagles never backed down forcing Johnson County to fight for every point, often maintaining only a tenuous lead.
According to Coach Eric Crabtree, Theyre a well coached team and they play well. Theyre short on numbers but theyve got some really good players, and we didnt really play with the same energy. It wasnt as clean a game. We made a lot of mistakes today. We missed a lot of passes, a lot of spikes, and a few serves, so we werent as clean today as we were the other night, but, theyre a good team also.
In fact, despite getting the first points on the board, the Lady Longhorns were soon playing catch up in the first game of the evening, falling behind 1-3 early on. The score eventually balanced back out at 3-3 but the Lady Eagles tried to maintain their momentum by staying at least one point ahead. The game took a back and forth pattern where the Lady Longhorns would fall behind and then catch up, tying at four, five, six and seven.
Johnson County managed to change track at the seven-point mark and within only a few minutes pushed as far ahead as 11-8. The Lady Eagles were able to regain their footing a few more times, but strong pressure at the net from players like Brionna Reece began to undermine their resolve. Brionna did really well there toward the end of the game, Crabtree said. Block is really devastating for the other team, because they think they have this really great hit and it comes back at them. The more that happens, the more timid they are to hit, and then their hitting is not as effective. As long as we have that block and are getting our hands on the ball, we make it harder on the other team to score. Brionna came up with some huge ones there at the end, and I expect that of her. Shes got good timing and does it really well.
Ultimately the first game ended with a 25-20 win, but a determined Tricities came back in the second game with a vengeance. Taking the initiative and landing the first point, the Lady Eagles managed to put a five-point deficit ahead of the Lady Longhorns at 3-8. The Johnson County girls were able to regain their composure, and determined not to lose, began making some big plays. Catching back up to 9-9, neither team wanted to give up the lead. A few good serves resulted in the ball staying in play for several minutes at a time. Through pure determination the Lady Longhorns prevailed, taking the lead shot ahead of Tri-Cities once again.
Making four critical consecutive points, Johnson County put just enough distance to come out with a second win, 25-21. The tough battle at the net continued on into the third game, but rather than hinder, the pressure seemed to energize players like Reece. I was just thinking dont let it hit the ground, do anything you can to keep the ball in play and give the point to us. I love the blocking; it just gets me really excited and gets my momentum going, she said.
Although Tri-Cities seemed determined to stay in the match, by the third round the defeats were taking their toll. Johnson County got the first point and soon had two more before the Lady Eagles could answer. Going into one last run, Tri-Cities managed to take the lead for the last time of the evening and was able to put as much as a three point advantage behind them. Yet, with a couple of bad serves against them, the team fell behind late in the game, going from 11-13 to 15-14 in a handful of serves. With that last flip, the Lady Longhorns were able to carry the game all the way to the biggest win of the night at 25-19.
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