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Spartans hold court in Johnston's homecoming

September 23, 2008|By CHRIS CARTER

MERCERSBURG, Pa. -- There was no football game, no king or queen and no parade Monday night at James Buchanan.

But that didn't make Heidi Johnston's homecoming any less memorable.

The first-year McConnellsburg head coach made the trek over Tuscarora Mountain to return to her alma mater where she unleashed a fierce rotation that attacked its way to a 25-19, 23-25, 25-12, 25-17 victory.

"I'm from JB so I know a lot of the girls," said Johnston, a 1999 graduate of James Buchanan. "My girls adjusted well to what I told them and what they saw, and they deserve a lot of credit for that."

The Spartans (7-0) lost their first game of the season in match play but responded by winning the final two games in imposing fashion. A'leese Dickerson led the way with 18 kills -- seven in the third game -- while Michelle Baker added seven kills to go with her team-best 18 digs.

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Brittany Ott set the table with 34 assists and seven aces.

"We haven't had a lot of matches that had gone to a fourth game. This was probably our biggest test so far," Johnston said.

James Buchanan (6-2) blew a seven-point lead in the thrilling second game but finished strong with seven of the last nine points to even the match at 1-1.

But McConnellsburg took the air from under the Rockets in the third game, racing out to leads of 9-4, 17-7 and 23-8 before closing out the win.

"I thought that could have been a big momentum change for us," said Rockets coach Erica Piper of the Game 2 win. "I always have confidence going into any match, but I told the girls that (the Spartans) are a good serving team. Our serve-receive just wasn't there."

Despite its flaws, it appeared James Buchanan might push McConnellsburg into a fifth game after jumping out to a 5-1 lead to open Game 4. But the Spartans regrouped and went on a 13-2 spurt to regain control. They had six aces in the clinching game -- three by Ott.

Krystal Leasure led James Buchanan with 13 kills, Sarah Harryman had eight and Toryn Quivers added six.

"It was a battle back and forth. We just always seem to have a let-up," Johnston said. "But the girls played their hearts out. On defense there was never a ball that hit the ground without someone going for it."

Johnston took over as head coach of the Spartans this season after serving as an assistant under Lory Baker, who relocated to Nebraska.

"(Baker) told me she was going to be leaving," Johnston said. "She asked me if I could handle it."

She seems to be handling it just fine.

JV: James Buchanan, 2-0.

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