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Cougars warm up for district by beating Blue Devils

Johnny Wilson • Updated Sep 27, 2018 at 11:13 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Chilly nights will be coming soon, so the Sullivan Central volleyball team decided to get a jump on the competition and warm up for next week's District 1-AA tournament with an easy league win Thursday night.

The Cougars turned in one of their best efforts of the year and rolled to a 25-19, 25-15, 25-14, straight-set victory over visiting Unicoi County.

It was Senior Night at the Dickie Warren Dome, and Central did not disappoint.

"You never know what can happen on Senior Night with the emotions that are there," said third-year Central coach Logan Kemp. "I think it showed early on, but we were able to shake off those emotions and get it together and play well.

"I'd say this was probably the most-complete game we've played in a while, and the timing is good as we head into tournament time.''

SENIORITY MATTERS

Central (17-15, 8-4) was indeed impressive after falling behind early, rarely trailing past the midpoint of the first set and flat dominating at times.

As usual, seniors Alyssa Giles (3 aces, 6 kills, 17 digs) and Maci Cloninger (20 digs) kept the Cougar motor running smoothly.

"Those two have been a huge part of our program for four years, both with their performance and in their leadership roles," Kemp said. "Not only outside the court, but their games speak for themselves when on the court.

"We're sure going to miss them next year."

Also contributing to the Cougar cause were Laiken Hoback (19 assists) and 6-foot sophomore Elaina Vaughan, who finished with four aces, four kills and five blocks.

STACKED DECK

The Blue Devils, 4-8 in the conference, simply weren't up to the task.

"We went four games with them at our place and I was expecting more of the same tonight," said third-year Unicoi County coach LeeAnn Lane. "But we've got a couple players who are just sick, so it's hard to rearrange the lineup with a limited number of players.

"It was also their senior night and that always makes it tough, too."

Unicoi County was led statistically by Ashton Vance with 23 digs and Blake Hall with 10 assists. Shelby Miller produced seven kills for the Devils.

TOURNAMENT TIME

The District 1-AA tournament, to be played at Sullivan East, begins with three games Monday night, with top-seeded Sullivan South earning a first-round bye.

South has already earned a Region 1-AA berth by virtue of claiming the Three Rivers regular season. The district survivor will join the Rebels in regional play.

Central will be seeded third and open district play against the No. 6 seed.

"If everything falls right that should be Johnson County," Kemp said.

Unicoi County will be the fifth seed and meet No. 4 East in the first round.

"We've stayed pretty competitive with East this season so we've just got to be ready for another battle with them," Lane said.

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