BLUFF CITY -- The Elizabethton Cyclones' volleyball team saw the 2011 season come to an end Thursday when the squad suffered a 3-1 defeat against co-regular season champion Sullivan North in a District 1-AA semifinal contest played at Sullivan East's Patriot Palace.
Sullivan North, the No. 2 seed for the event, took the opening game 25-17 before Elizabethton, the No. 3 seed, rode momentum to a 25-22 second-game decision. However, Sullivan North ended up the winner of games three and four by scores of 25-18 and 25-17, respectively.
"North is a strong team with a strong program, a lot of tradition," Elizabethton head coach Leslee Bradley said after the match. "They certainly know what to do in a semifinal match."
In the first game, Elizabethton turned a 6-1 deficit into an 11-8 lead thanks to the 10-2 run after a timeout called by Bradley. Unfortunately Sullivan North scored three straight to tie things at 11, but Elizabethton regained a two-point lead, 13-11, on a mistake by Sullivan North. Eventually, Sullivan North broke a 16-16 tie when the Lady Cyclones could not get the ball over the net. After that score, North started a four-point run that led to a 1-0 deficit in the game column for Elizabethton.
The second game saw the Lady Cyclones jumped out in front 5-3 before three straight came from Sullivan North to take a slim lead. All Elizabethton did was rally to score five of the next six points to take the lead for good. The first two points of the run were scored via blocks by Abbi Pierce and Harley McMillian. Later on, the Lady Cyclones were up 20-13, the largest margin of the game.
After Elizabethton started game three up 4-1, Sullivan North battled back and the higher seed used an attack error to break the 9-9 stalemate. The Lady Golden Raiders built that lead to 14-9. Eventually, Elizabethton made it a three-point margin, 19-16, with a kill from senior Megan Hutchins.
Hutchins ended up with five kills and an ace.
"I am still a little confused about what happened in that third game because we did have the momentum, and for some reason we started doubting ourselves and they had a run with couple of different servers score," Bradley said about the tie-breaking game.
In what turned out to be the finale, Sullivan North never looked back after an ace made the score 2-1. Elizabethton scored first, but the next five were by Sullivan North. The Lady Cyclones battled, but could not get within striking distance to force a fifth game.
For the Lady Cyclones in 2011, the team went 12-23 with five seniors -- McKenzi Peterson, Megan Bare, Julea Trivette, Makayla Hazelwood and Hutchins -- ending their prep careers.
"Those five girls throughout the course of the season really led the team, and each in different facets," Bradley said about the senior group. "Each showed us what a team means and we are going to miss those five next year."
In addition, Ashleigh Dykes and Pierce were named to the All-Three Rivers Conference squad. In Thursday's contest, Pierce gave out 25 assists and Dykes recorded 10 kills.
Elizabethton got 25 digs from Summer Reece against Sullivan North.
North went onto face off against Sullivan East for the championship later Thursday, with Sullivan East coming out on top 3-1. Both Sullivan East and Sullivan North advances to next week's Region 1-AA tournament.
This was the third time Elizabethton faced Sullivan North, with all three going to the Lady Golden Raiders -- two by 3-1 accounts and one 3-0 margin.
Earlier in the day, Sullivan East swept Johnson County behind scores of 25-9, 25-15 and 25-13 to set up the district championship between the two Sullivan County schools.