Monday night must have felt like an eternity for the Person High School varsity volleyball team.
After dropping a tightly-contested first set, the Rockets won the next three and downed previously-undefeated Bartlett Yancey, 23-25, 25-21, 25-20, 25-17, to snap a six-game slide for its first win in 20 days.
Person (3-10) played without head coach Amanda Ramirez, who stayed home with her son as he was recovering from an illness.
“My players were ecstatic since BY won the first set tonight,” Rockets’ assistant coach Paige Cox said. “They’re just like, ‘we are not losing in three. We’re going to, at least, take this to four sets.’ I think the process has finally stuck. The players are locked in now and trusting it fully. That’s made it a lot more fun to not focus on the win-loss column this year, but the process instead and let the outcome come to us.”
Person entered Monday’s home non-conference contest with a pair of 3-0 losses in their past two games – Thursday at reigning 3A state champion Cedar Ridge, then Friday against 2A power Falls Lake.
The Rockets were, once again, just two sets away from a seventh-straight loss Monday night.
They faced a 24-23 deficit in the opening set Monday night, only for Bartlett Yancey’s (11-1) Kayden Miller to end it with a kill.
Person quickly responded, looking like the better team throughout the final three sets.
The Rockets never trailed in the second and third sets after early, 1-0 deficits. They raced out to an 8-4 advantage in the fourth, only for the Buccaneers to come roaring back and grab a 13-12 lead.
Person took the next two points of the deciding fourth, then never trailed or tied again.
It was the Rockets’ first time winning a game after dropping the first set.
“We took tonight’s match one point at a time,” Cox said. “We don’t get too focused on two or five points away. It’s the next point or ball, it’s the next contact and making sure we are doing what we need to be successful with that. We focused on making the game a little bit smaller – 25 points is a lot to win. Taking a set one point at a time makes it a little more bearable. It helps my girls stay present in the moment.”
Person welcomed starting middle blocker Kaylie Parker back to the court from a sprained ankle, an injury that caused her to miss all three games last week.
She enjoyed a stellar night, recording six kills and tying with Miriam Clayton for a team-high three blocks.
It was Liberty Jones, according to Cox, who stole the show with some of her thunderous, team-leading 10 kills.
Jones started the second set with a kill that tied the score at two. The Rockets never trailed or tied again in the set.
Jones nabbed Person’s first two points of the third, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 advantage. Her first two kills of the fourth set broke ties, giving the Rockets a 2-1 lead, then, moments later, a 4-3 advantage.
“I think it’s obvious Liberty had an amazing night,” Cox said. “She took some major swings for us under pressure that, maybe before, she wouldn’t have. She was feeling it tonight.”
Cox also credited Jadyn Chandler and Cassie Jay, who combined for 25 assists, plus middles Parker and Clayton, who totaled 12 kills and six blocks, for being crucial factors in an important Person victory.
“Our setters were going with our game plan and really running our middles,” Cox said. “Our middles were up on every block and then executed their swings. They all did a really great job.”
The win could prove to be crucial for the Rockets down the road.
As of Wednesday morning, they sat at 30th in the NCHSAA’s 3A East RPI rankings.
The NCHSAA only takes the top 64 teams from a given classification – 32 each from the East and West, to the postseason.
Person has made the state playoffs every year since 2004.
“It always feels good to win,” Cox said. “Beating an undefeated team definitely makes it a little bit more special. At the same time, just knowing our growth and where we’ve come from, taking a win like that where we stuck together and played hard for ever point, we earned that win. I think for us, that’s just really special.”
The Rockets hosted Northwood yesterday in a rematch of Person sweep earlier in the season.
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