NEWPORT—The 2019 campaign didn’t get off to the start the Cocke County Lady Red would have liked on Monday evening.

The Lady Red fell in three-straight sets against the visiting Bearden Lady Bulldogs, as each set shared a similar theme. The Lady Red would start on the right foot, but in the end Bearden would prevail for all three set to sweep Cocke County 3-0 (25-22, 28-26, 25-22).

“We weren’t consistent enough,” head coach of Cocke County Jeremy Byrd said. “Bearden is a very athletic team and they had girls covering the whole floor. We did some good things here and there and grabbed momentum, but once we made a mistake, we let go.”

As for Bearden, it was a bittersweet victory with head coach Erin Biddle, a Cocke County High School alum, earning a win against a school she once geared up for on the volleyball court.

“It’s always great to come home,” Biddle said. “It’s exciting to play here at Cocke County, my alma mater. It was great to begin our season against Cocke County.”

Cocke County’s energy was high to begin set one with an early 9-4 advantage until Bearden slowly crept up to tie the set at 12-12. The lead would belong back to the Lady Red with a 21-18 lead, but the Lady Bulldogs fight in the end disrupted Cocke County.

After Bearden tied the set at 21 apiece, the back-and-forth battle to 25 began. Cocke County could not pull it together as Bearden grabbed the 25-22 victory with help from Jadyn Watkins’ three kills.

“We would have it going for a while, but it didn’t last the whole time,” Byrd said. “We aren’t handling adversity very well right now. We have to do a better job playing in those tight games. We didn’t gel together tonight. It looked like we were out of rhythm.”

The same start was in store for the Lady Red to begin set two with a 7-3 advantage, mostly from Bearden’s mistakes. Cocke County remained ahead for a while, building a lead of 22-14, but the Lady Bulldogs then fought through the adversity.

Bearden scored five straight to cut the deficit to three, eventually tying the set at 23. From there, the two exchanged leads until Bearden caught a break from errors made by Cocke County for a second set win.

It looked as if the theme would disappear in set three, but Cocke County started with another small advantage that would slowly disintegrate once more.

“Bearden played very well and pulled together some great offensive plays,” Byrd said. “It was really hard to defend those whenever our momentum was down. We have to work on that and not let the girls get in their head.”

This time the Lady Bulldogs did not let the deficit expand too much as they kept it within three, until tying the set at 14-14. Bearden would not let Cocke County see another lead after that, though, as it went on to claim the 25-22 victory and pull off the sweep.

Byrd would like to clean up the mistakes his team made before entering District 2-AAA play tonight.

“We didn’t hurt ourselves too much against Bearden,” Byrd said. “We will have to be more ready and position much better. We have a little bit to clean up before we head into the next game. We know it won’t be easy.”

The Lady Red will need to quickly shake off the season opening loss, as they have a quick turnaround by opening up district play tonight by hosting Cherokee at 5:30 p.m.

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