Cyclones go from hunter to hunted

By Allen LaMountain

ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR
alamountain@starhq.com

   After a successful season at the Region 1-AAA level in which the Elizabethton Cyclones advanced to the district semi-finals before bowing to Science Hill, EHS now moves to Region 1-AA.
   The days of playing the hunter in AAA classification is over as Betsy moves down to a spot where they feel they will now be the hunted.
   "A pre-season coaches poll had us picked number one in the conference," said Cyclones head coach Bill McClay, who hopes his squad can transfer the success they enjoyed last season into a possible 'Spring Fling' run in 2002. "Moving down should enable us to compete on a more level playing field, but we still scheduled matches against Tennessee High, D-B and Morristown East."
   Last season's squad finished 8-4-4 (including playoffs) and was a quantum leap forward for the Elizabethton soccer program, but so much more is attainable this season.
   The Cyclones will compete in a four-team conference that will include University High, Sullivan North and Sullivan Central, and will play a 15-game schedule designed to bring out the best in a senior laden team.
   "We have a lot of seniors on this team, in fact we have 12 of them," said McClay. "And they all have experience and have been in the program for at least three years, so we expect to have to learn how to play as the hunted rather than the hunter.
   "It's a different mentality to go from playing as an underdog most of the time to people expecting you to win."
   With strong scoring from seniors Michael Tierney and Luke Carrier the Cyclones should be explosive. Carrier in fact owns the single-season scoring title for Betsy and also owns the single game record with five.
   "I wouldn't mind being able to set some more school records," said Carrier. "But I want to do what's best for the team first of all. We want to try and take things one game at a time and hopefully be where we want to be at the end."
   Though the Cyclones lost goal-keeper Daniel Gleason to graduation, Betsy is still in good shape in the nets with senior David Poston taking over between the pipes.
   "Poston learned a lot and has been groomed behind the 'Great Wall' as Gleason was called," said McClay. "He got into some games last year and did well so I have confidence in him."
   Other scoring options for Betsy include John Jativa, Lincoln Orellana, Sandy Nave, Jonathan Cook and Alex Fries -- all seniors who have benefited from two or more seasons in McClay's program and have developed a chemistry among them.
   "We don't have any one sort of go-to guy," said Tierney. "We feel that almost anybody can finish for us and we always look to the guy that's the most open."
   Traditionally the Cyclones have played with a defense first mentality and Tierney said, "That won't change. We have always played hard on defense and in trying to deny the ball."
   The Cyclones open play on Thursday night at Sullivan Central where they will be tested right away by a team that most point to as Betsy's toughest competitor. Game time is set for 5 p.m.
   "We were picked to finish first, but Central is a team everyone says is strong," said McClay. "No one will overlook us this season that's for sure. It's a entirely different mentality when you start getting respect from media and coaches and these guys want to prove that the limelight should be on them, and that they deserve to be thought of in that way."