East clinches regular season title with win over Jeff County

Morristown East’s Jaci Drinnon sets the ball on Tuesday night against Jefferson County. 

Morristown East wrapped up the District 2-AAA volleyball regular-season championship with a 3-1 victory over Jefferson County Tuesday night at Isenburg-Siler Gymnasium.

It was the seventh district win without a loss for the Lady Hurricanes who can wrap up a perfect district season with a victory at cross-town rival West on Thursday night.

Coach Holly Drinnon’s team improved to 12-2 for the season by winning the opening set 27-25. Jefferson County then rallied from an eight-point deficit to take the second game 25-20 before East won 25-19 to take a 2-1 lead.

The Lady ‘Canes ran off 12 consecutive points midway of the fourth set and went on to win 25-15.

With the victory comes the top seed in the District Tournament and the right to host the event, which will be the first full week of October.

Jefferson County fell to 6-5 overall and 4-3 in the district.

Jaci Drinnon had another big night statistically and made one of the biggest plays of the match in the third set when she dove to the floor at least 10-feet out of bounds to get a ball up that Kiersten Bell put away to put East at set point.

Drinnon, the only senior on the East squad, finished with three kills, 36 assists, 20 digs and three aces to lead the victory.

Bell and Reagan Forester knocked down 13 kills apiece with Laken Burnside adding six and freshman Ella Wampler five. Wampler also had five digs and three aces while fellow freshman Lilabeth Jordan had 29 digs, five assists and an ace.

Bell and Forester added 16 and 12 digs respectively while Hailey Hall wound up with 13 digs, 4 kills, 4 aces and 2 blocked shots. Burnside also blocked 2 shots.

Madyson Osborne and Natalie Moore had nine kills each and Caelyn Bradley added eight for the Lady Patriots. Moore also served four aces and blocked a shot.

Coach Drinnon commented, “Jefferson County is just a good team. They do a good job on defense and they’re a strong serving team.

“I thought we really bought in to our new defense and did a good job with it,” she added. “We had some glitches in there. We had a huge lead in the second set and let it get away from us and we can’t afford to do those kind of things. I thought we had a lot of people play well tonight.”

In talking about her daughter’s play, Drinnon said, “She likes to dive but she knows how to get a ball back in play and she had some big ones tonight. She also does a good job of running our offense and setting the people who need to be getting the ball.

“With her being my daughter, I sometimes don’t give her enough credit but she really works hard out here.”

She said, “I don’t think we hit the ball as well tonight as we had been. But I thought the girls made some good adjustments in their hitting lanes and did a lot better later in the match.”

Lady Patriots’ coach Tori Yokum said, “Instead of taking ownership of some things, we let some outside factors determine our level of play tonight. If you’re going to be successful at volleyball or life, you can’t let other people control what you do.

“You can’t control what happens to you but you can control how you react to it,” she added. “We let outside things control us too much tonight.”

Yokum said, “I thought Natalie played really well for us. And Madyson did a good job for us, too.”

The opening set was a thriller. There were 13 ties and 10 lead changes. Jefferson County led early by 8-5 but East had a 7-1 run to grab a three-point lead.

Forester had a kill, Wampler served two aces and Burnside nailed a kill as East went in front 17-12. But the Lady Patriots rallied to tie it at 17-17. The visitors then jumped out to a 23-20 lead on kills by Bradley, Edwards and Osborne and an ace by Moore.

However, Bell had a kill, the Lady Patriots made two straight hitting errors and Jordan served an ace to put East up 24-23. Emmie Edwards blocked a hot to tie it again but Wampler’s kill gave the Lady ‘Canes the lead again. Osborne’s kill knotted the score one final time before two straight kills sailed long to give East the win.

It looked like the Lady Hurricanes were going to have an easy time in the second game when they sailed away to an 8-0 lead. It was 10-3 when the visitors started their rally with three straight points.

East led 15-10 but a 7-2 run by the Lady Patriots tied the set at 17-17 on Bradley’s kill. Hall’s kill gave the Lady ‘Canes a 19-18 advantage but Moore smacked a kill to tie it and then served an ace as the Lady Patriots closed with an 8-1 run to even the match.

In the third set, Edwards’ kill gave Jefferson an 11-8 lead before Wampler had a kill and then an ace as East regained the lead at 12-11. Drinnon had consecutive aces for a 15-12 lead but the Lady Patriots rallied with four straight points and led by one.

It was tied at 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 when East ran off the final six points including the one sparked by Drinnon’s diving save to take the lead in the match.

Set four was close early. Izzy Johnson had a kill and a block to give the visitors a 10-8 lead. That’s when East scored a dozen unanswered points with Drinnon serving. Hall and Forester had two kills each in the spurt and Burnside put down another.

The Lady Patriots never recovered as they got no closer than 22-14. Two straight kills out of bounds and a kill by Wampler ended the match.