The Cougar volleyball teams opened preseason play last Tuesday with three scrimmage matches against the visiting John Hardin Bulldogs.
In varsity action, the Cougars played well, but lost a close match in three sets, 18-25, 25-20, 6-15. The JV girls lost in straight sets, 18-21, 20-22, but both sets were close and could have gone either way.
The freshman girls, behind the devastating serving of Shelby Watkins, were the only winners on the day for the Cougars, winning in straight sets, 17-7, 17-8. Watkins finished with nine aces, including six in the second set, to power the freshmen to the win.
These were two fairly evenly matched teams and it showed early in the first set as the teams were rarely separated by more than a point or two.
But with Jessi Slayton serving, the Cougars managed to take a three-point advantage at 14-11. John Hardin answered right back, though, scoring three straight to tie it at 14-14.
Grayson County came back to win the next rally point to go back on top 15-14, but that would turn out to be their final lead of the first set. Tied at 16-16, the Bulldogs won the next rally point, then served five straight points to lead 16-22.
The Cougars got the ball back on a Bulldog hitting error before Katelyn Joyce served an ace to make it 18-22. That would be as close as the Cougars would come, though, as the Bulldogs closed things out with a kill by Ebonie Hampton to win the set.
The Cougars trailed by as many as five points in the second set, the last time coming at 11-16, before they mounted a comeback that won them the set.
Senior Jessika Young served a pair of aces to pull her team to within two at 14-16. Senior Jessi Slayton then served two more aces to tie things at 17-17.
After a John Hardin service error, senior Danielle Roark served another ace to put the Cougars in front 19-18. A John Hardin hitting error increased the lead to 20-18 before the Bulldogs took back the serve.
After another Bulldog hitting error gave the serve back to the Cougars, two straight points, including a kill from Young, made it 23-19.
Junior Kelsey Embry then had a kill to give back the serve to the Cougars at set-point, 24-20, and when Embry put away another kill, the Cougars won to even the match at a set apiece.
With the prearranged time limit near, the two teams decided to play a 15-point deciding set. The Cougars seemingly had given all they had in the second set, as the Bulldogs raced out to a big lead at the start. John Hardin took a seven-point, 3-10 lead before the Cougars scored their first point off of service. Amber Dotson served an ace to make it 4-10.
With the Bulldogs on top 6-13, Young sent a kill attempt long to bring it to match-point, and when the Cougars were whistled for being in the net, the Bulldogs went home with the win.
The Bulldogs opened the first set by scoring four straight points before the Cougars got a side out on a John Hardin error.
Watkins took the serve for the Cougars and served six straight points, including two aces, and the Cougars led 6-4.
Grayson County still led 8-7 when the Bulldogs scored three straight to take a lead they would not give back. The visitors slowly extended their lead until grabbing their largest advantage of the set at 14-19.
Four straight Cougar points, including an ace from Megan Mudd brought the Cougar to within a point at 18-19, but the Bulldogs won the next rally point and served out the game on set-point to eke out the 21-18 win.
There were seven ties in the second set before the Cougars scored four straight, including another Watkins ace, to take a 13-10 lead.
A kill by junior Machala Perkins gave the Cougars their largest lead of the set at 17-12 before the Bulldogs began battling back. Three straight Bulldog points tied the score at 18-18.
Grayson County won a rally point to take their final lead of the match at 19-18. The Bulldogs served a match-point at 19-20, but Allyson Atkins committed a hitting error to give the ball back to the Cougars tied at 20 apiece.
But Katelyn Metcalf’s serve was short and the Bulldogs had another chance at a match-point and this time made it a good one as Kelsie Priddy served an ace to close out the game.
After the Bulldogs opened with the first two points, Watkins took the serve to give the Cougars a lead they would not give back. The Cougars scored eight straight including three Watkins aces and a kill from Bailey Elder to lead 8-2.
The freshman girls extended their lead to seven points twice. Leading 14-7, Miranda Boaz served three straight aces to give the young Cougars a 17-7 win in the first set.
Leading off with the serve in the second set, Watkins put the Bulldogs in a hole they would not climb out of. Six aces and kills from Elder and Bailey Martin propelled the Cougars to a 9-0 lead and they never looked back.
With Ciara Meredith serving at 15-8, the Bulldogs committed a pair of errors that gave the Cougars the 17-8 win and the match.