Owens joins Intermont as volleyball signee

By Jeff Birchfield

   Elena Owens is the latest Johnson County athlete to be Bristol-bound. A couple of weeks after basketball star Judd Shoun signed to play for King College, Owens signed papers Tuesday to join Virginia Intermont's volleyball team.
   "I'm very excited to be going there," said Owens. "They first contacted me back last August. About December, I decided not to go there, but now I'm glad I changed my mind."
   Helping to influence her decision was running into two ex-schoolmates at Johnson County on a recruiting trip.
   "I ran into Andrea McQueen and Adam Cornett two hours into my college visit," said Owens. "I loved the campus. Everyone there is so nice and everybody knows everybody. The President of the college even came out to meet me and he knew my name."
   The reason Virginia Intermont was so interested in Owens was her leadership on the Longhorn volleyball team this past season. She averaged 5.4 kills per game, leading Johnson County to a 22-18 record, its first 20-win season in a decade.
   That was a big turnaround for Johnson County's program. A similar feat will be expected at Virginia Intermont, where the team dropped their first ten contests of the 2003 season.
   Owens, recruited to run either as a middle hitter or right side hitter, has noticed a big difference in her play from the time she started high school to the time she became a college recruit.
   "I look back at the tapes and think, 'Did I play like that as a freshman?'" said Owens. "The older I've got, I wanted to hit the ball harder and get after it more."
   At Johnson County, Owens was a player coach Michele Cooke knew she could depend on to get the most in every contest. Now joining VI's Cobras, she will be reunited with coach Dale Martin, whom Elena first met as her floor coach at an ETSU volleyball camp.
   "I've spoken a lot with her," said Owens. "She is a really nice woman, who will do anything for the girls on the team."
   Sports won't be the only thing on Elena's mind when she heads off to college this fall. The daughter of Dale and Brenda Owens and younger sister of Crystal Owens plans to major in business with hopes of one day opening an accounting business.
   Her minor will be in photography, something Elena became interested in four years ago. Her favorite subject is sports photography with an emphasis on shooting baseball games.
   She also will be leaving Johnson County as one of the top athletes in the school, averaging around 15 points per game on coach Eric Crabtree's basketball team. In a comparison of the two sports she excelled at, she related a volleyball fly hit to a lay-up in basketball.
   Asked about her top individual accomplishment while playing for the Lady Longhorn volleyball team, Elena named being selected to the all-tournament team at the King College Invitational, when she competed against top players and teams from Virginia and North Carolina.
   On the personal side, she talked of missing friends and a lot of faculty at her Mountain City high school, but is ready to plunge into new experiences as a college student/athlete.
   "I'm glad I will be able to travel," said Owens, who attends First Freewill Baptist Church in Mountain City. "I will be rooming with a teammate that was one of my opponents this past year. Brittany Nave from Volunteer will be my roommate and I'm looking forward to that. We have become good friends the past couple of years."