Lady Longhorns withstand 'Betsy

Photo by Dave Boyd
Rachel Osborne of EHS tips the ball just over the reach of Johnson County's Ryann Tillman for a point.

By Michelle Pope
The Lady Cyclone volleyball team had a few tricks to show Johnson County during senior night at Treadway Gymnasium. In the second Longhorn/Cyclone match this season, the Lady Longhorns won the first set 25-13. However, the girls from Elizabethton held on tightly in the second, forcing Johnson County to reach past 25 for the win. The second match ended in the Longhorns' favor at 25-27.
Spurred by the close game, the Lady Cyclones took the third set for themselves, beating Johnson County 25-23. The Lady Longhorns came back in the fourth and final match, prevailing with a score of 25-14 for their 20th season win.
"We were more focused. We talked about that," said Elizabethton coach Leslee Bradley.
The team's versatility was apparent by the almost equal scoring from each of the Lady Cyclones.
"We can play with anybody when we decide to, and we did that tonight," Bradley said.
Before warm-ups, the senior members of the Cyclone volleyball team were honored.
"We introduced all of them, and recognized them and said 'thank you,'" Coach Bradley said.
Eight seniors were present to receive this honor: Emilee Berry, Kristi Bowling, Brandi Forbes, Ali McNeely, Trish McNeely, Rachel Osborne, Allison Parlier, and Jennie Powell.
Kills from Rachel Osborne, Jennie Powell, Kristi Bowling, and Brandi Forbes helped put Elizabethton points on the scoreboard, but Johnson County smacked down its points, too, and quickly.
Three kills from Johnson County's Ryann Tillman, and aces from Michel Hornsby and Alysa Billings lifted the Lady Longhorns to the 12-point win.
"We had our letdown moments, but we played hard. We played consistently," said Johnson County's coach Michele Cooke.
Elizabethton took a strong lead in the second set, scoring seven points before Johnson County got past their first point. Berry started out with a service ace, and Forbes followed through with two kills, in addition to a kill from Osborne. McNeely clinched the scoring run with two aces.
The teams played leapfrog with the lead for the remainder of the match, taking turns with drawn out scoring runs. Elena Owens started the first Longhorn run with a kill, and Hornsby finished it with two aces. Berry and Powell took care of Elizabethton's turn racking up points, with a kill and ace, respectively.
McNeely, who scored on every serve during the evening, contributed two aces, and Berry and Bowling kept the Lady Cyclones within three points of their opponent for the rest of the set.
For the Lady Longhorns, Tillman and Elena Owens took turns firing kills onto the Cyclone court, and Johnson County eventually won by two points.
"We still have lapses in the game, where we let them go on a couple of runs against us, because we weren't focused," Bradley said of her Cyclones. "We haven't done it enough this season to have been able to maintain it through the whole match, but I feel like we're close."
During the third set, Elizabethton controlled the match throughout its entirety, save for three times when Johnson County inched up for ties at four points, 20 points, and 23 points.
Powell helped the Cyclones maintain their lead by scoring five points; three with kills, one block, and a service ace.
Forbes knocked down two kills and blocked a Longhorn return for another point. Parlier served two straight aces, and Berry threw in another ace and a kill.
The intense set ended with Elizabethton taking the win, 25-23.
"I really feel like we've played well. We know what it feels like now, so we've just got to be able to carry that over through a whole match," said Bradley.
Johnson County stayed on the Lady Cyclones' heels with accurate serving and well-placed kills. Hornsby and Owens each served two aces, and Katie Nelson pitched in with a kill. Tillman had three service aces and three kills during their only lost set.
"They (Johnson County) played well," Coach Bradley said. "They served very well tonight. We kept sitting on the bench going, 'please serve it out, please serve it out,' and they just kept nailing them. They've got some really strong hitters, and they kept using them."
The Lady Cyclones again took an early lead in the fourth set, scoring six points against Johnson County's two. Osborne served two aces in a row, and Forbes racked up three kills.
However, Johnson County soon tied the score at eight. Several Elizabethton outs later, including one that swished through the basketball hoop, Johnson County was in the lead, 16-12.
During the rest of the set, Johnson County allowed only two points from the Lady Cyclones in the form of a kill from Forbes and a Powell block. The 'Horns won the final match, 25-14.
Tillman collected 24 kills, and Laura Peters made 35 digs for the Longhorns. Owens served 15 points, and had seven kills and 24 digs.
For Elizabethton, Forbes had seven kills and four blocks, with Powell following close behind with five kills. McNeely made nine assists, and Berry and Osborne each had four kills. Osborne also contributed 13 digs.
"All the time, we're looking up, we're doing better," said Coach Cooke of her Johnson County girls. "Elizabethton did a fantastic job. We can't take anything away from them."