Lady Cyclones fight hard; fail to advance


Photo by Dave Boyd
Lady Cyclone senior Jennie Powell makes a set.

By Michelle Pope
STAR STAFF
mpope@starhq.com
Monday night's district tournament volleyball action at Treadway Gymnasium left Sullivan Central and Sullivan North teetering on the edge of a championship match seat, Volunteer High and Johnson County battling through the loser's bracket for the second seat, and Elizabethton as the fifth place team who will not return for tonight's matches.
After giving their first match to Johnson County in three sets (14-25, 10-25, 18-25), the Lady Cyclones awaited the end of a lingering five-set match between Volunteer and Sullivan North for their second shot at the district championship.
After an intense battle, North overpowered Volunteer, matching the Lady Cyclones against the Lady Falcons. Meanwhile, Johnson County tested their skill against Sullivan Central, who received a bye in the tournament. The Lady Longhorns played hard, but lost the match in four sets, with scores of 15-25, 17-25, 25-23, and 13-25.
During Elizabethton's battle with Volunteer, Brandi Forbes and Emilee Berry controlled the court for the Lady Cyclones with kills. Berry ended the first rally with a kill, and followed up with a service ace. Forbes and Rachel Osborne contributed a kill each, tying the score at four.
Volunteer scored three points, including an ace from Brittany Mabe, which the Lady Cyclones matched with three points of their own, one courtesy of an Osborne ace.
"We played hard. I'm pleased with our effort," said Elizabethton coach Leslee Bradley.
A block by Ashleah Dykes that hit Elizabethton's court, and a kill from Mabe helped put the Lady Falcons in the lead, to which they tightly held onto for the remainder of the set. Despite kills from Elizabethton's Berry, Kristi Bowling, Trish McNeely, and Forbes, Volunteer finished up the match 25-15 with an ace from Kellie Simpson, and two kills and an ace from Mabe.
Elizabethton replied with renewed vigor in the second match as Berry began by serving three straight aces. Volunteer's score rose to two before the Lady Cyclones dominated again, scoring four more unanswered points with two service aces from McNeely and kills from Forbes and Jennie Powell.
"We didn't come and just lay down," Coach Bradley said of her team's valiant effort to stay in the running. "We still played hard, and gave it everything we had, and gave ourselves a good shot at being here tomorrow."
Elizabethton continued to hold the lead throughout the entire match, save for a momentary tie at twenty-one points. The Lady Cyclones proceeded to score four consecutive points with the help of a McNeely ace, and defeated Volunteer 25-21, tying the match at 1 and 1.
"That was big. I think that's the first game we've beaten them all year, so that was a big plus," Bradley said. "That whole match was definitely the best match we've played against Volunteer all year long. We worked hard, and played well."
In the third set, the Lady Cyclones went on a nine-point scoring run consisting of three kills from Forbes, another from Bowling, and a service ace by Osborne. With a five-point lead, Elizabethton performed well, with balanced scoring, but Volunteer also performed with skill.
Mabe collected four more kills for the Lady Falcons, in addition to a block and kill from Dykes, and another point from Steevie Caldwell. The set ended with a score of 20-25 in Volunteer's favor.
As the only two teams remaining in the gym, dueling for the chance to return, both the Lady Cyclones and the Lady Falcons were beginning to grow weary. Volunteer won the fourth and final set 25-11, as well as the rights to a 5:30 showdown with Johnson County during the second day of the Watauga District 1 Tournament.
Brittany Mabe led Volunteer with fourteen kills in the match with Elizabethton, followed by Ashleah Dykes with six. Junior setter Ashley Bennett made thirteen assists, and Steevie Caldwell had five kills and nine digs.
For Elizabethton, Brandi Forbes dominated with nineteen kills for the night, and ten blocks, three of which directly led to points. Emilee Berry served six aces, scored eight kills, and made four blocks. Trish McNeely contributed eighteen assists, followed by Jennie Powell with sixteen. All of Powell's serves for the night led to points. Ashley Cline made twelve digs for the Lady Cyclones.
Three games will be played tonight in Treadway Gymnasium, beginning at 5:30 p.m, and the final match will be held Thursday evening.