BRISTOL, Tenn. – Opening a new season in defeat is never the goal, but sometimes playing tough is perhaps a good sign of things to come.
Tennessee High veteran volleyball coach Mary Johnson knows the tune.
“I hate losing, but we really competed and that’s very important,” Johnson said Tuesday night, after her Vikings were swept by visiting District 1-AAA rival Science Hill. “We gave them a run for their money.”
Indeed. Had the Vikings been able to make a break or two late, perhaps they could have reversed fortunes of their 25-21, 27-25, 25-21 setback.
“I just felt there were a few things that happened there at the end of all three games where Science Hill was just a little bit smarter than we were,” Johnson said. “That’s probably the inexperience factor where you’ve got new teammates on the floor learning each other, but I’m OK with it for it being the first night out.”
THS certainly had its chances throughout the evening to make a move, but Science Hill simply would not let the Vikings break through.
The Hilltoppers of third-year coach Laura Cook found themselves deadlocked 18-18 in the first set and 25-25 in the second, yet won both games.
“None of ‘em will be easy this year,” Cook said. “The whole conference is going to be that way, every night.”
Science Hill received six straight service points from Jesse Franks to overcome an 18-16 deficit in the first set.
The Vikings then missed a good opportunity in the second set, holding a 24-23 edge before serving into the net in their attempt to even the match at 1-1.
The Hilltoppers eventually moved out to their 2-0 lead after 6-foot-1 Loren Grindstaff blocked Kenzie Nickels at the net, before Sara Whynot delivered a clinching ace.
In the third game, Science Hill ran out to a 7-0 advantage and never trailed, although THS did get to within three points on three occasions, the last time at 24-21.
The sweep hardly spoiled the debut of Viking newcomer Jamayia Honaker, a transfer from Patrick Henry High School in Glade Spring, Virginia.
Honaker finished with a team-high eight kills.
“She’s a great addition to our team and to be quite honest, I wish we could have gotten her the ball more than we did,” Johnson said. “But that will come.”
Six-foot-one Ella Gay produced 11 kills to pace Science Hill, which received eight kills each from Grindstaff, Whynot and left-handed Claire Thomas. Franks finished with 22 assists to lead the Hilltoppers.
THS got eight assists apiece from Riley McCracken and Madison Curtin.
The Vikings host Daniel Boone on Thursday night in their next outing.