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Ladies end week in tournament

After a few miscues, the Lady Blue Devil volleyball team got back into the win column in Three Rivers Conference.
Unicoi County High School (2-6) defeated Johnson County in a five-set thriller on Thursday, Aug. 20, in Erwin and carried over momentum from that win into the Cyclone Invitational held at Elizabethton High School on Saturday, Aug. 22, where the Lady Devil fell in the championship bracket to the host Lady Cyclones in two sets (27-26, 25-19).
“The girls played a great match,” Lady Blue Devil head coach Frank Forsythe said after the Elizabethton contest.
Keelie Hall paced the UCHS offense with six kills in the tournament finale for the Lady Blue Devils. Savannah Lafever and Ashlie Padgett combined for 15 digs. Senior setter Laura Rogers also accounted for 15 assists in the match.
The competition in the Cyclone Invitational will help the Lady Blue Devils moving forward, the head coach said. The squad also faced Providence Academy, South Greene and earned a victory over West Greene during the pool play in Carter County.
“Tournaments are always important,” Forsythe said. “We played Providence, who we played before, and we struggled a little there. But we came out and started off real well against South Greene and then were able to get a win against West Greene.”
UCHS opened a four-game stretch prior to the Cyclone Invitational. The Lady Devils lost three consecutive matches to Providence, Greeneville and Daniel Boone, before defeating Johnson County in Erwin.
“Every day we got better and better,” Forsythe said. “Having four matches was a tough week, but Thursday we put together a solid performance against Johnson County.”
The ladies were able to come out of the gate to earn the first two games against the Lady Horns before falling in a tight third game, (27-25). Johnson County took the fourth game in deciding fashion before UCHS rallied in the final frame to win, (15-11).
Hall brought the damage on the court against Johnson County with 13 kills. Katelynn Bennett and Brooklyn Jones provided solid play up front, while Lafever added 20 digs and four assists.
Padgett, a senior who finished Thursday with 11 kills and digs, knew the importance of the conference victory, snapping a losing streak in the Three Rivers that the ladies suffered in 2014.
“It solidified that we are improving,” Padgett said Saturday about the win over Johnson County. “During the game I thought we played better and it just paid off for us.”
Padgett later said the tournament experience will be key for her team.
“It was big for us to see the competition that we will see again later on in the season,” she said. “I think this is good for the underclassmen we have on the varsity team to get a taste of this.”
Forsythe said he’s starting to see underclassmen come into their roles, including sophomore Kenedy King.
“I don’t want to say it is a surprise, but Kenedy King has really stepped up,” he said. “She puts up a good block and is getting good kills.”
Along with King, the varsity team also has two freshmen, Jones and Sarah Grace Larkey, who are also providing a spark to go along with the already seasoned core, Forsythe said.
UCHS opened this week with home matches with Sullivan Central and Sullivan North after The Erwin Record’s press deadline.
The Lady Blue Devils are scheduled to travel to Madison County, N.C., on Wednesday, Aug. 26, before ending the week with a trip to Sullivan South on Thursday, Aug. 27.
The contests will feature underclassmen and varsity action with start times set for 4:30 p.m. each evening.