Lady Red down Cherokee 3-0 in D2-AAA opening round

Cocke County’s Gracie Gregg pushes the ball over a block attempt by Cherokee’s Arran Harell (7) and Makenna Bledsoe (12) Monday.

NEWPORT — Cocke County won their opening match of the IMAC volleyball tournament Monday evening with a 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-18) victory over Cherokee and will face Morristown West this evening in round two.

The Lady Red were sluggish to begin the match but finally got things going in the right direction midway through the first set. “We slept-walked a little bit through the first set, but we finally put it together and had a little bit more energy about midway through the second set and played a little bit better,” coach Jeremy Byrd said.

The score was close early on until Leah Brown had a kill that just landed inside the back line and two service aces by Maddie Williams gave the Lady Red some breathing room. That was part of a 6-0 spurt that put the home team ahead 10-4. “Maddie served pretty well tonight to be honest. She hadn’t been serving well lately but tonight she stepped up and got us going and that allowed us to pull away a little bit,” Byrd said. Cocke County appeared headed toward an easy win in game one but the Lady Chiefs came back to score five points in a row to cut the lead down to 23-16 but the Lady Red were able to hold off the advance to prevail 25-19.

Cocke County started extremely slow in game two and fell behind 10-5. That was when Byrd called a timeout and challenged his team. “It was a mentality thing as I didn’t think mentally we were there. When you aren’t there mentally, you aren’t there physically and you aren’t thinking about what you are doing. I told our team Cherokee came in here to beat them and embarrass them on their home court and that was what they were going to do if we didn’t turn it around. That got to our team a little and they didn’t want that to happen.”

Byrd’s pep talk worked as Cocke County kept chipping away at the lead until they tied the score and then took a 17-16 lead on back-to-back service aces by Abagail Kirk. The first game ended with the same score as the first as the Lady Red won 25-19.

Game number three saw Cocke County play better and control the tempo throughout. Paige Neithammer had a monster block for the Lady Red late in the contest and that allowed them to put the finishing touches on a 25-18 win to claim a 3-0 victory over Cherokee.

The Lady Trojans of West are up next and Byrd said it will be important for his team to play well early when they meet this afternoon. “West is a very good team that is well coached and have good athletes. We have to perform better than we did tonight and I think we will. We have to go ready to play and can’t look back to the past and say they beat us 3-0 both times. This is a new season so I think we will be ready to go and ready to compete.”