The Roxboro Community School varsity volleyball team found itself one set away from grabbing a key victory against undefeated Eno River Academy Monday night at the Dog House.
Eno River came storming back in the next three sets, then rallied late in the fifth set for a 3-2 (17-25, 17-25, 25-14, 25-22, 15-13) victory to clinch the program’s first ever Triangle North regular-season conference title.
“We had control of the first two sets,” RCS (12-5, 8-2) head coach Hayden Rigsbee said. “In sets three, four and five, there was never a spot my team felt like the had control and consistency. We would slide out and get a point, then give three away. That’s not how you win a set. I think part of that was, we started getting lazy on defense. We started letting balls hit the floor. We also started hitting balls out, into the net or into the middle of Eno River’s block. You can’t hit into the middle of a block or give soft tips. Errors are going to kill you.”
Despite watching its sizable lead disappear, the Bulldogs gave themselves another chance to win with a late, fifth-set rally of their own that made the score 13-12.
RCS faced multiple four-point deficits (9-5, 10-6), then shrunk its gap due to several Eno River (19-0, 9-0) miscues. Down 12-9, the Bulldogs scored the next four points with a Kaedyn Rowney kill, Delayna Welch service ace, Bobcat attack error and a Kynlee Brooks kill to give them their final lead.
Eno River crushed RCS’ hopes of an upset victory, closing the night on a Clare Young kill and two straight from Kassidy Woodson.
“We had that mentality of ‘one point at a time,’ no matter what the scoreboard said,” Rigsbee said. “My players probably thought about just trying to force the ball down when they were attacking, or off blocks, in hoping it led to a positive outcome. If they did the wrong things, it wouldn’t. The more we do the right thing, the better position we’ll be in to score a point.”
Despite Woodson’s late charge playing a factor in the visitors’ comeback, Rigsbee highlighted the Bobcats’ attack, as a whole, in giving the Bulldogs’ defense trouble and forcing them to adjust.
Natalia Rossi did not record her first kill until late in the fourth set, then added on four more in the fifth. Clare Young, after nabbing just two kills in the opening three sets, contributed four in the final two. Amara Chambers, Eno River’s setter, even broke into the kill column with three.
Eight different Bobcats ended up with a kill.
“I don’t think it was (Woodson) that hammered the nail in the coffin,” Rigsbee said. “Collectively, Eno’s a hard team to play defense against. A lot of times, their hitters are spreading their attack all over the court. It’s hard to shift to the middle, then back to line, when an opposing team’s hitters don’t have consistency in hitting the ball. Either they have control or a lot of luck. They’re still learning about their bodies and how to control the ball.”
The RCS defense, led by libero Delayna Welch, kept the balanced Eno River attack in check during the first two sets.
The Bobcats’ longest early-match run was a four-point swing in the second set, when it turn a 14-7 deficit into 14-11. Hannah Smith’s four kills were the most by an ERA player in the first two sets. Woodson only notched three.
“When Kass hit, we cheated line a bit,” Rigsbee said. We knew where their players usually hit to and we stuck with that. As the game went on, bodies on both teams got tired. Our defense wasn’t as tight and our attack wasn’t as consistent. We received lots of balls coming off blocks. Touches are great, but if the defense behind them aren’t willing to move their feet, we’re in trouble. We got in trouble plenty of times last night, not doing that. My team was tired.”
The Bobcats (19-0, 9-0) sit fifth in the NCHSAA’s 1A East RPI rankings, while the second-place Bulldogs (12-5, 8-2) are ninth. Eno River will likely host several playoffs matchups, while RCS is currently projected in the 13-15 seeded range.
The teams could possibly see each again in the TNAC tournament.
“The reality is, yes, it stinks to be second in conference, but we have a conference tournament,” Rigsbee said. “Eno will get an automatic bid. We should still get a wild card. All the other teams who win out their conferences, will be placed in those top spots for automatic bids. Wild cards will not be put above them. It’s the same thing as last year, when we finished second in the conference to Vance Charter.”
Until then, Rigsbee wants her girls to put last night’s game in the rearview mirror.
RCS hosted Henderson Collegiate yesterday, then welcomes Vance Charter this coming Wednesday at 7 p.m. for Senior Night.
“For starters, we have to let last night’s game go,” Rigsbee said. “That means, whatever emotions we had about the outcome of the game, those are over with. That doesn’t mean we can’t talk about and correct some of the mistakes that we made. The girls need to fine-tune some attacking points, where maybe they’re off or can’t get a full swing, but instead learn some out-of-system attacks. They can’t always be big hitters with big swings. Instead, they need to go up with the intention of a big swing and then tipping the ball.”
The Bulldogs’ Peyton Hogan led all players with 13 kills, while Kinzy Rowney added nine. Kaedyn Rowney contributed six, Jenna Hogan killed five attacks, then Sydney Adkins and Kynlee Brooks recorded four apiece.
Rigsbee was particularly impressed with the play of Kaedyn Rowney, who set a season-high in kills.
“Kaedyn had some great swings,” Rigsbee said. “She had a connection with Jenna and was able to get a clean kill. Everybody had their times last night. I think Delayna and Kaedyn, however, really helped us as impact players night.”
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