Despite loss at Central, young Lady Dragons serve notice

  • Clinton’s Ellie Murrell gets a shot over net against West High School Tuesday night. - Ken Leinart

  • Clinton’s McKenzie Crisp digs for a return against West High School Tuesday night. - Ken Leinart

Clinton High School’s volleyball team might’ve been swept in its District 3-AAA match at Knoxville Central Thursday night. But new Lady Dragons head Coach Lorri Johnson didn’t have many complaints.

“Our kids are playing hard and they’re working hard,” Johnson said after Clinton dropped 25-21, 26-24 and 25-22 decisions to the Lady Bobcats in Knoxville’s Fountain City community.

“Honestly, we have a really young team,” he said. “Even our seniors are young.

“They haven’t played a lot of high-quality volleyball. I have no complaints. We fought hard and we battled to the end.”

It was Johnson’s first trip back to Knoxville Central since she coached the Lady Bobcats (3-8 overall, 2-2 in District 3-AAA) in 2017-18, and the Lady Dragons (5-3, 2-2) served notice early that they weren’t going to be an easy out.

Clinton opened a 6-0 lead in the opening set as Tomi Taylor provided a spark with her service run that included three aces, and forced Central Coach Susan Davidson to call a timeout.

The Lady Dragons opened a 14-6 advantage in the game before the Lady Bobcats stormed back to pull to within 16-13 when they earned a side-out.

Central’s Brooklyn McMillan then reeled off three consecutive service points to knot the set, 16-16.

After the Lady Bobcats opened a 20-17 advantage on an ace by Morgan Kerney, CHS rallied to pull even. With the score tied 20-20, Central scored five of the last six points of the set to seize the upper hand in the match.

The Lady Dragons had leads in all three sets before ultimately falling, and youth at the setter position would prove problematic for Clinton, which fell behind 10-4 in the second game before storming back to take an 11-10 lead. Kierra Washington scored five consecutive points, included a set-tying ace.

“We just need to get more experience in our setter position,” Johnson said.

The two teams battled in a roller-coaster ride of a third set, and the Lady Bobcats appeared to seize control when they opened a 21-15 lead. But after Clinton earned a side-out and Darbi Brummett scored five consecutive points, the set was a 21-21 deadlock.

From there, the Lady Bobcats scored four of the last five points of the match.

Davidson said that she was impressed with the Lady Dragons’ effort.

“Clinton played really well and Lorri’s doing a wonderful job over there,” Davidson said. “She helped get things started over here.

“These (Central) kids are her kids. Our seniors played for Lorri when they were freshmen.”

Brummett, Washington and Zavie Ford each had four kills for the Lady Dragons, while Tomi Taylor and Murrell added three apiece.

The Lady Dragons had a potent service game as Taylor had five aces. Washington served up three while Brummett and Jordyn Majors each had two.

Taylor had 10 assists and McKenzie Crisp recorded 13 digs.

Clarke Blakemore finished with 12 kills for the Lady Bobcats.