Central fends off EHS

By Michelle Pope
STAR STAFF
mpope@starhq.com
The Lady Cyclones put up a good fight against conference leader Sullivan Central (4-0) in their volleyball game Thursday evening. With scores of 25-23, 25-16, and 25-18, Sullivan took the win, but not without some stiff competition from Elizabethton.
Emilee Berry started the Lady Cyclones out strongly with a kill and two aces. An out-of-bounds ball from a Central player put Elizabethton in the lead, 4-0.
Elizabethton clung to the lead through most of the match, and only grudgingly relinquished its hold when an ace from Central's Meghan Reed tied the score at 16.
After several long rallies and another kill from Berry, Elizabethton took the lead once again with 22 to the Lady Cougars' 18. Central's Elizabeth Shelton made a dig, and a kill from Ashley Quesenberry brought the final score of the set to 25-23, with Central barely snatching the win from beneath Elizabethton's nose.
"I really feel good about the way we played tonight," said Elizabethton volleyball coach Leslee Bradley. "We struggled for about the last week and they were able to snap back together and play hard."
Berry led the Lady Cyclones with five kills, four aces, eight digs, and no errors.
"Elizabethton has come so far. They played really well," Sullivan Central head coach Tracy Graybeal said. "My girls came out and we didn't serve very well tonight, but we hit the ball well."
In the second set, Berry once again scored the first point with her well-directed serve. The talent and determination of both teams became apparent as each girl played with intensity, keeping the ball in an almost constant volley back and forth across the net.
Several intense rallies ended with a call in favor of Sullivan Central, and the Lady Cougars were soon in the lead, despite two timely blocks from Elizabethton's Brandi Forbes and Berry.
"Plays went their way. Too many long rallies went their way, and that kind of takes the steam out of you a little bit," said Bradley.
The Lady Cougars, an obviously close-knit team, sang songs in warm-ups and chanted each time the team had a kill. After 18 matches in two and a half weeks, Coach Graybeal insinuated that they were only winding down.
"We are rather [spirited], and I think tonight they're even a little bit flat. I think they're really tired, mentally and physically. But they persevered and I'm really proud of the character that they've developed," Graybeal said.
"Even we've [the coaches] gotten down a couple times, and they don't quit. They're kind of getting that confidence like they're going to win. Any time you've got that confidence, that's a good thing."
The Lady Cyclones played the third set with an even more heightened level of intensity. The beginning of the match was a constant wrestle for the lead, with both teams struggling to pass its opponent with a gap large enough to safely secure a strong lead.
Halfway through the set, the score was still dangerously close, with Central clinging to the lead by two points, at 14-12. Berry made two consecutive blocks for a kill, and Trish McNeely seemed to be all over the court with digs that left her sliding across the floor.
An ace from Central's Erin Brown, and several called errors boosted the Lady Cougars in the end of the match, and Central took the win with 25-18.
Bradley encouraged her girls to take something other than a win out of the night's match.
"They'll be disappointed after this loss, but if they can take away some of these points that we won in that match - we were right in it, neck and neck with the conference leader," she said.
"I'm really pleased with the effort we gave, and it was a total team effort," Bradley added. "Everybody played hard, the bench played hard. Everybody was really into it tonight."