Lady 'Horns overcome Elizabethton

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR CORRESPONDENT
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   MOUNTAIN CITY -- Having the never-quit, refuse-to-lose attitude paid off for the Johnson County Lady Longhorns in volleyball Tuesday, as they came from behind in two games to beat Elizabethton, 17-15 and 15-13.
   "We start out asleep sometimes and it takes a little while to wake up, but they seem to do better the closer the game," said Johnson County coach Michele Cook.
   The Longhorns began the first set by grabbing the early 1-0 lead, when Becca Boney made a saving dig, followed by underhanded hit from Ashlee Billings.
   Elizabethton came back to score seven unanswered points with great net play from Brandi Forbes, along with some tough serving from Michelle Collins.
   It wasn't until Collins missed on a serve, which went out, that Johnson County was able to get its next score.
   The Cyclones got on another roll by scoring the next six points, giving them a commanding lead of 13-2.
   A set from Lauran Marlow, followed by a kill from Rachael Osborne and a breakdown in the Longhorn defense, gave the Cyclones an excellent chance to close the door and seal the game.
   "We should have won the first game, and I'm disappointed about that," said Elizabethton coach Leslee Bradley. "We let Johnson Co. get on a roll, and once you give momentum away in a volleyball match, it's hard to get it back."
   A diving save by Boney and a kill from Nikki Davidson broke the Cyclone string of scoring, which definitely served as the turning point of the game.
   From then on, the Cyclone defense sputtered along with their offensive play.
   Instead of going for the kill, Johnson County decided to make the tap to the opening area, which Billings and Elena Owens scored several times.
   "We try to do a few smart things sometimes, and I like seeing them hit the ball hard -- but I also like to see them use their heads," said Cook.
   Nothing seem to go right for the Cyclones, as they were missing the ball or either hitting it too hard out of bounds.
   "Johnson County is a much more experienced team than us, so that made a difference," said Bradley.
   A couple of hard serves from Marlena Woods brought the Longhorns even with the Cyclones at 14, and a hit from Owens to an open spot gave them their first lead since the start of the game.
   Johnson County had come back from an almost impossible situation to regain control, and a couple of kills from Davidson put them at match point with a 16-15 advantage.
   Next play was a hard serve from Boney, which the Cyclones were unable to contain as Marlow and Holly Pearson fell crashing to the ground going after the save, giving the match to the Longhorns.
   In the second game, the Longhorns didn't have to make up nearly as much ground as in the first.
   Johnson County trailed by as many as three points in different parts of the contest, but their climb back to the top was not near the rally that they had to make previously.
   The game started off just like the first one did, as Johnson County took a 1-0 lead after an ace by Billings.
   But the Cyclones compiled the next four scores with some misses from the Longhorns and a block by Forbes on a kill.
   Johnson County grabbed back the lead at 6-5 when Billings made the tap to an unoccupied area, and a lack of execution on the Cyclones' defense enabled the score.
   "I don't think we adjusted to their offense enough. They were tipping the ball and we didn't read it when we needed to," said Bradley.
   Some amazing plays by Woods scraping down to get the digs kept the Longhorns in contention, with one shot coming from down on the floor.
   "They were calling her the trash girl tonight, but she was going after it and was not afraid to go down on the floor," said Cook.
   The match went back and forth, until Elizabethton made five straight points to take a 12-9 lead.
   The Longhorns made a couple of mistakes by crossing the net, which appeared to take away their momentum.
   Elizabethton's last score came when Emilee Berry connected on a serve that Woods was unable to keep in play.
   After that point, it was all Johnson County as it made the last five scores of the match.
   Excellent serves coming from Billings tied the contest, then a couple of taps by Owens gave the Longhorns the lead with match-point.
   "We kind of started slow, but we changed our momentum, and we were ready to win and played to win," said Billings.
   The final play of the game was a kill coming from Pearson that sailed out of bounds, giving the win to the Longhorns in two come-from-behind victories.
   "We were ready to fight, and we weren't going to take anything," Billings said. "This is our first game on our home floor."