Earlier this season, Person High School head varsity volleyball coach Amanda Ramirez highlighted her players’ struggle to finish off opponents in close games.
That same storyline nearly took place at Rocket Gymnasium Thursday night, until the Rockets made a heads-up play late.
Person, up five points late in the fifth set on Eastern Alamance, watched a service error sail over the back line that closed out an intense, back-and-forth 25-19, 23-25, 25-17, 23-25, 15-13 Rocket victory.
“We played as a team tonight, with fire and intensity the entire time. Normally, we do that roller coaster with our emotions. Tonight, we didn’t do that. We wanted this game more and I think that’s a big factor.”
The win keeps Person (5-12, 3-7), winners of three of its past five games, in position for a postseason spot. As of Tuesday, the Rockets sit 30th in the NCHSAA’s 3A East RPI rankings.
“This win was so important because we’ve talked about how this season is a growth one,” Ramirez said. “From the first match against RCS, to now, we’ve grown so much. Over the last couple weeks, it seems like the missing pieces are starting to come together. Even though it took us five games to get a win against Eastern, we now know we can win those tight games. We’ve got that feel for it. We’re still minimizing those careless mistakes, but that doesn’t change overnight. It’d be nice to ride off of this win and take it to Williams.”
Person held five-point leads in the second (19-14) and fourth (17-12) sets, only for the Eagles (4-14, 2-8) to come soaring back and steal those.
The Rockets bolted out to a six-point advantage in set five, seemingly putting the match away against a pesky Eastern squad.
The Eagles punched back once again, closing its gap to two (11-9) in the latter stages and forcing the first of two Ramirez timeouts. Person later gave itself some breathing room with a 14-11 lead, then called another timeout when Eastern took the next two points.
Ramirez highlighted how both timeouts were a key to the Rocket victory.
“We used both of our timeouts very intentionally,” Ramirez said. “We called out that we have to make sure we’re settling and recognizing, ‘we are fine,’ but focusing on getting the next point. We have to make sure we’re staying disciplined without our positions, then letting each other know who’s probably going to get the next ball. I feel like, after those timeouts, we did a really good job going back out there and executing.”
Defense also played a major component in Person holding off the Eagles’ fifth-set jaunt.
Cassie Jay, normally a right-side hitter, positioned herself under a couple powerful swings. Lilly Atkins, a six-rotation player, prevented the ball from finding the floor. Delayna Grimes, the Rockets’ libero, gobbled up numerous Eastern attacks.
Their strong digs and passing, according to Ramirez, would not be possible without solid play from front row players Kaylie Parker, Miriam Clayton and Liberty Jones.
“The block is doing a much better job with lining up and being where they’re supposed to,” Ramirez said. “Therefore, our defense is able to get settled. As long as our block is working, then our defense is able to play a lot more consistently. I feel like Delayna also did a much better job with defense and serve-receive tonight.”
The Eagles’ attack, led by 14 kills from Peyton Kimber, shined throughout.
Yet the Rockets, who saw nine different girls record a kill, was just a step ahead.
Jones continued her torrid play, slamming down a career-high 15 kills. Parker joined Jones in double-digits with 10. Atkins registered eight, Miriam Clayton contributed five, Jay added three, defensive specialist Marian Clayton, who served up an ace, recorded two kills. Setters Danni Brown and Jadyn Chandler finished off one attack each.
“Different players really turned up tonight,” Ramirez said. “Lilly was just on fire. She just did such a good job that she was able to finish it out. She kept that consistency, fire and energy, plus she gave us a handful of really good swings.”
It was Rachel Duncan, according to Ramirez, who really stepped up as a key contributor.
Duncan, who overcame knee surgery to step back on the court this year, wound up with eight kills in the five-setter.
“Rachel’s worked so hard this season, with being able to make the transitions and changes that myself, coach Paige or Courtney ask of her,” Ramirez said. “She’s riding on a wave right now. She’s had a couple of really solid matches. I think now that she’s feeling that confidence again, we’re going to continue seeing this type of performance from her.”
Person closes its regular season with a 6:15 p.m. first tip tonight against Walter M. Williams.
The Bulldogs (14-6, 5-5) overcame a two-set hole to down the Rockets, 3-2 (23-25, 23-25, 25-22, 25-16, 15-11), in Burlington Sept. 20.
Warriors sweep Rockets
Western Alamance got the best of Person in three sets Tuesday at home, winning 3-0 (25-23, 25-16, 25-22) .
Neither team had stats available for the contest.
The Warriors (11-10, 7-4) moved up a couple spots to 17th in the NCHSAA’s 3A East RPI rankings. The Rockets (5-13, 3-8), despite their loss, remain 30th and in position for a playoff spot.
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