Lady 'Horns fall short vs. North

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   MOUNTAIN CITY--A loss on senior night for the Johnson County Lady Longhorn volleyball team on Tuesday still doesn't take away from what has been a magical season for the young ladies from Mountain City.
   Johnson County lost 15-12, 15-5 to Watauga Conference leader Sullivan North at Ray Shoun Gym, but it has been a season to remember according to Lady Longhorn head coach Michele Cooke.
   "I'm proud of my girls," Cooke said. "Even the games we've lost most of them have been real close. They fought the whole time, so I'm proud of them. I'm looking forward to the tournament.
   Take away one of the area's best players in Sullivan North's Nakisha Bledsoe, and it might have been a much closer match.
   Bledsoe had 10 blocks and seven kills for the Lady Raiders, and was a dominant force up front.
   "I think they played well," Cooke said about her team. "They scrapped and they dug after every ball. But 44 (Bledsoe) had the big guns out. A good hit is a good hit."
   Senior setter Ashlee Billings missed game one for the 'Horns due to an eye problem, but eventually came in and played well. Another senior, Tamara Smith, started in Billings' place and made Cooke very proud.
   "Tamara Smith did an excellent job stepping in for her," Cooke said. "Ashlee came in the second game and played real hard."
   Even though the Lady Longhorns came in on the losing end, it was a night of celebration for six seniors who have turned Johnson County volleyball into a winner.
   Billings, Smith, Nikki Davidson, Heather Burgess, Rebecca Boney and Marlena Woods will all be leaving Johnson County High School soon, but not before doing so as winners.
   Cooke has a ton of admiration for this bunch.
   "They're a good bunch of seniors," Cooke said. "They're all good leaders. They play hard, and they pick each other up. I'm going to miss them. I wish I had them another year instead of just two years. The last two years have gone by quickly."
   These players have not only succeeded on the court, but also off it. Two of them have perfect 4.0 G.P.A's.
   "They're good kids all the way around," Cooke said. "They're good athletes, they're very good students, and they're good role models. Two of them are valedictorians right now (Billings and Davidson). And the other girls have very high G.P.A's as well."
   As for Tuesday night's game, Elena Owens had seven service points, Burgess finished with six kills, Boney tallied 12 digs and Davidson put down 10 good spikes for Johnson County.
   The Lady Longhorns finish Watauga play at 3-5, which is much-improved from last season's 0-8 mark.
   Cooke is happy with the turnaround.
   "It's a better year," Cooke said. "It's an improved year. I'm OK with it."