KINGSPORT — She is the Dean of Northeast Tennessee’s high school volleyball players ... Emily, that is.
Sullivan North’s Emily Dean casts a long shadow when it comes to net play.
Her statistics weren’t as impressive Thursday night as they had been in other matches. But it really wasn’t necessary.
Sullivan North defeated Elizabethton 25-9, 25-10, 25-12. The Lady Golden Raiders also beat the Lady Cyclones in three straight games early in the season.
Dean, a senior, got nine kills and four blocks to share the limelight with junior Cydney Hood, who scored eight service points.
Playing time was limited for Dean and several other starters. Coach Vicki McGlothlin worked in every player.
“I was able to put everybody on the bench out there,’’ McGlothlin said. “Injuries and sickness have held us back. It’s nearing the end of the season and with tournament play coming up, we need to get the right combination of girls on the floor.’’
North (13-11, 5-2 Three Rivers Conference) had 11 players missing from a recent practice. Four of these were varsity starters.
But the infirmary count is gradually dropping.
Madison Smith, bouncing back from the flu after missing seven matches, and Chelsea Doran, who’d been sidelined eight matches by an ankle injury, returned to the lineup against Elizabethton.
Hood, who spent six days at home with the flu, was also just coming back.
“A team doesn’t click when you’re playing beside somebody different every night,’’ McGlothlin said. “Maybe tonight’s match was the start of something. We came out with enthusiasm and energy. Hood went on a serving spree.’’
Hood said she’s beginning to feel stronger.
“I was getting a good toss on my serves,’’ she said.
Dean, a prime candidate for player of the year honors in the conference, is interested in studying sports medicine. She’s just what the doctor ordered for North’s ailing team.
Her leadership perhaps has kept the Lady Raiders competitive. At one stretch when the roster was nearly decimated by sickness, North managed to win eight of 10 games in some key matches.
“It’s been tough without the regular starters,’’ Dean said, “but a lot of girls stepped in and saw what jobs they had to do for us to win. I like being team captain because I’m a senior. This gives me an opportunity to help some of the younger players.’’
Tiffany Gragg, one of North’s key hitters, had to sit this one out with an injured ankle.
McGlothlin has been coaching at North 16 years and produced some outstanding teams. This season has been unlike most others.
“It’s an enjoyable team to coach,’’ she noted. “Injuries come with any sport.’’
The Raiders are chasing Sullivan East in the conference race and looking forward to the district tournament, scheduled for Oct. 13-14 at North.