Bradley Central’s Monica Johnson and Natalie Jennings threw up a two-player wall at the net and the Bearettes overwhelmed host East Hamilton, 3-0, in a District 5-AAA volleyball match on Thursday.
Johnson and Jennings, both juniors, combined for 15 blocks and 21 kills as the Bearettes completed the sweep by set scores of 25-23, 25-5 and 25-15.
Bradley Central improved to 7-3 overall and 2-2 in the district with the lopsided victory.
“There’s no comparison to this match and our last match in terms of how well the girls played,” Bradley coach Christie McElhaney said. “This rotation came out and played the way they’ve played numerous times this year. This is the way these girls are capable of playing.”
Johnson finished with 16 kills and 10 blocks while Jennings added five blocks and five kills.
“I’m 6-foot-1 and Natalie’s about the same,” Johnson said. “We had a really good team talk (Wednesday) at practice and that got us more mentally prepared than we have been in the past. We weren’t thinking about (defending) any one girl from East Hamilton, but just wanted to play together as a team. It’s more than just me at Nat. It takes the whole team.”
East Hamilton coach Kristy Lenoir, whose Lady Hurricanes fell to 4-2, 1-2, couldn’t say the same for her squad.
“We were not ready and didn’t take the match seriously,” she said. “We were emotionally flat. We are not a team that is person-to-person athletically good enough to be nonchalant about any opponent. This (effort) was completely unacceptable. “If my girls are OK with this they better be prepared to not enjoy any practice from here on out because there will be nothing enjoyable about them. When you step on that floor you better act like you want to be there.”
The two teams fought tooth-and-nail throughout the first set before the Bearettes’ got kills from Johnson and Kateland West for the final two points.
The Lady Hurricanes got a kill and two service points by Samantha Headrick for a 17-15 lead, but Bearettes ran off seven straight points – a West kill, two service points by Halle Hughes, two scoring blocks and a soft-touch placement by Jennings and Lisa Duvall’s kill shot down the middle – to grab a 21-17 advantage.
East Hamilton pulled to within 24-23 when Johnson’s kill sailed out wide right before West’s kill decided the outcome.
East Hamilton’s lethargic play reached a zenith while Bradley maintained its inspired effort for a second-set rout.
The Bearettes raced to a 10-2 lead and Tori Harris scored for the Lady Hurricanes on a well-placed tap.
Bradley, however, scored 12 of the next 13 points for a 22-5 advantage. Johnson had four kills in that stretch and added another for the final point that gave the Bearettes a dominating 20-point win.
East Hamilton’s Emma Lenoir, the 2013 District 5-AAA Co-Player of the Year with Ooltewah’s Courtlyn Ison, failed to score in the second set.
“We worked hard on transitioning, moving our feet and getting lined up,” Jennings said of the net play that frustrated the Lady Hurricanes. “I’ve not played this well in school ball until today.”
Johnson and Jennings patiently waited their turn to shine while sitting in the long shadows of Brooke Copeland and Rebecca Reuter – both Division I basketball signees. When their time to take over the front line came this season, they were ready to shine.
“I’m excited about that,” Jennings said. “I want to take advantage of the opportunities I get, be a good leader and play to the best of my ability.”
In the third set, Bradley worked into a 10-7 lead on Julia Gaither’s kill and the Bearettes took that play and ran with it, scoring eight of the next 10 points for an 18-9 cushion.
A Lenoir kill and a service point by Headrick moved the Lady Hurricanes to within 18-11, but the only other East Hamilton points the rest of the way came off Bradley misplays.
After two such miscues, Jennings blocked Lenoir for a point, Johnson had two kills and Reagan Morrison clinched the match with a kill.
Emma Lenoir credited the Bearettes with outstanding defense at the net, but didn’t back away from the challenge.
“They have some big hitters and big girls that can block the ball,” said Lenoir, the daughter of East Hamilton’s coach. “That’s the best I’ve faced this year, but I’m not going to let down just because somebody blocks me. I’ll just keep going harder. I’ll work harder for the next one.”
Monica Johnson – 16 kills, 10 blocks
Natalie Jennings – 5 kills, 5 blocks
McKenna Stinnett – 10 assists, 3 aces
Lisa Duvall – 7 digs, 2 kills, 1 block
Halle Hughes – 6 assists, 2 aces
Gabby Ghassedi – 4 digs, 1 kill
Chanler Grady – 3 assists, 1 ace
Kateland West – 2 kills
Julia Gaither – 1 ace
Emma Lenoir – 10 digs, 7 kills, 3 assists
Tori Harris – 5 digs, 2 assists, 1 ace
Autumn Lowrie – 9 assists, 3 digs
Somer Batten – 4 digs, 3 kills
Meredith Stott – 4 aces, 2 kills, 1 block
Samantha Headrick – 3 digs, 2 kills, 1 ace
Kayli Jones – 1 kill
Jillian Harris – 1 ace
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)