Lady Longhorns young but athletic

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR Staff
mbirchfield@starhq.com
The Johnson County Lady Longhorns will attempt to better themselves from last year's third-place finish in the district tournament, but they'll have to do it with a young group of sophomores.
But what the Lady 'Horns lack in maturity, they make up for in athleticism.
"I lost six seniors last season, so we're really young. We have one senior, one junior, and the rest are sophomores," said Johnson County coach Michele Cooke. "We're really looking forward to the upcoming years, and if they can continue to improve, then we can do some great things."
It's not really certain where Johnson County sits at the moment, but one thing you can count on is that there won't be a lack of effort.
"The one thing is that I always expect my girls to play hard and compete, but I haven't seen everyone else play yet to make a real sound judgment on what our season might hold," said Cooke.
The Longhorns look to be strong in the middle, which will be led by senior Elena Owens.
"Expectations for this season are to work as hard as possible to teach the younger girls how to grow and play as a team," says Owens. "I'm looking for us to do really well in the conference."
There will be several tough teams Johnson County has to go through in order to make it to the post-season, so it's important to have some senior leadership in your corner.
"Central and North will both be tough, and I'm not sure as far as the other teams right now," said Owens. "We've really worked a lot on hitting, transition and playing together as a team. We lost all but two returning starters, so we had to start all new."
Owens feels like the communication between teammates is pretty good right now, which is crucial with all the young talent they possess.
"We're really starting to come together. We're talking more to each other and working with one another," said Owens.
The other upperclassman who will be looked to in leading the way is junior outside hitter Laura Peters.
"We're a young team but we're working hard, and we're just going to go out there doing the best that we can do," said Peters.
Peters says that they have been working a lot on defense and transition, and also learning on palming the ball on offense.
"It's hard knowing that all of your teammates are looking up to you when you're out there on the floor, but you just have to do the best you can every time," said Peters. "Sometimes they'll lose their spot and you have to help them, but we're all working as a team and do our best."
Ryann Tillman gives a lot of size up front around the net, and if she can become stable, then this will vastly improve their chances with success.
"Right now Ryann Tillman is probably my strongest hitter, and if she can give some consistency then we should do all right," said Cooke. "She's the youngest player on this team at 15."
A so-so regular season last year saw the Longhorns post a record of around .500, but at tournament time they were able to grab third in the final standings.
"We didn't win a conference game last year, so (finishing third) was good for us," said Cooke. "The thing I was pleased with the most is that we competed well, so teams were not expecting just to run over us as soon as we hit the gym floor."