December 19, 2014

Elyria
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New era for Elyria volleyball: Johnson wins debut

ELYRIA — Jodie Johnson didn’t even have time Thursday night to think about it being her first game as Elyria’s volleyball coach.
She was too busy preparing for Brunswick when a fellow teacher reminded her about it.
“Honestly, I did OK until one of the other teachers mentioned that it was the first game of my career at Elyria High,” Johnson said. “I hadn’t thought about it. I knew we had a match. I knew it was our home opener. I didn’t have any nerves until someone mentioned it and then I got a little flustered.”
Those butterflies quickly left as the Pioneers pulled away from Brunswick to post Johnson’s first career win in three games, 25-19, 25-8 and 25-8.
Johnson took over the reins this season following the retirement of Hall of Fame coach Carol Russo, Johnson’s mentor and former coach.
Perhaps Johnson’s players felt the pressure of the first game more than the rookie coach.
Brunswick scored the night’s first two points and led 3-1 before Elyria finally strung together a five-point run.
The Blue Devils kept it close throughout the first match but it was all Elyria after that. Runs of six and 12 points in the second game carried the Pioneers to their second-game win and the pattern continued in the third game when Elyria scored five and 10 unanswered points.
“We were (nervous),” said junior hitter Amanda Medvetz. “New coach. If we lose are they going to blame it on the coach? We can’t lose. We haven’t had much varsity experience. I figured everyone would be nervous.”
As the game moved along, Elyria seemed to get into the flow of the game and put the nerves aside. Brunswick had played three matches already, winning two.
“Home openers are always like that,” said Johnson. “That’s something all coaches experience on each level. The first game you have to get all the distractions out of the way, all of the jitters out of the way. We settled down and we started to play.”
Medvetz was at the service line for 11 of Elyria’s 12-point run in the second game that allowed the Pioneers to break open a 12-7 score. In the third game, Medvetz served nine of Elyria’s key 10-point run that put the game out of reach at 22-6. For the night, she scored 21 points from the service line and had two aces.
Elyria started three juniors, a sophomore and a freshman. Its lone senior starter was captain Jodi Richards, and it wasn’t until the first game was finally over before the Pioneers asserted their superiority at the net. Both sides made numerous hitting errors in the first game.
“What’s good is that we had the underclassmen step up and be leaders,” Johnson said. “We talked big about knowing their role and perfecting their role. They’re starting to understand their role on the court.”
Medvetz led Elyria’s attack with 13 kills. On defense, she had 10 digs while senior libero Jen Bower had seven. Sophomore Brigette Jones had eight kills while Jacque Hawes was credited with a solo block. Junior setter Erica Bracey had 28 assists and was a perfect 44-of-44 setting.
“The first one’s done,” Johnson said. “There’s some things that we liked. There’s some things we did not like. Amanda Medvetz is very, very stable for us.  She’s a strong attacker and a major defender and passer.
“Our middle hitter Brigette Jones really stepped up. She’s really gotten comfortable with being with the girls and understanding what she’s supposed to do.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.