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Patriots prevail
Heritage takes match from Rockdale 25-23, 25-11

CONYERS - There's never a dull moment when rivals Heritage and Rockdale square off.

And Tuesday was no exception - well, at least in the first game, when the Lady Patriots edged the Lady Bulldogs 25-23 before taking the second game 25-11.

"We came out with some intensity, we had some fire and we were pumped up," Rockdale coach Stephen Sansing said of the first game, which had 11 lead changes. "It was a great game. It just came down to the last couple points. The problem was I think we dropped our heads a little bit and didn't have that same intensity coming out in the second one."

With the win, Heritage (14-14 overall, 7-1 Area 8S-AAAA) secured the second spot in the subregion while Rockdale (13-11, 7-2) dropped to third.

"It's satisfying because it's a crosstown rival," Heritage coach David Buddenbaum said. "It's satisfying because for the last five or six matches, we're starting to finish games. That's what we've been working on in practice, so it's good to see it in matches.

"Our goal is to be good in October," he added, "and it's getting close to October. I think their confidence is rising. They played pretty well today, and I was happy with what I saw."

During the first game, the score bounced back and forth throughout the entire game.

After a kill by Rockdale's Tayla Mitchell, back came Heritage's Taylor Bailey with a kill of her own to make it 1-1.

The theme continued.

Yet had it not been for Rockdale's Lauren Aikens it certainly would not have been close. Aikens finished with six kills, earning four of them during a stretch that saw the Lady Bulldogs knot the score at 13-13.

After several more lead changes, Heritage iced it with back-to-back kills, the latter coming by way of Mitchell.

"They played well and we passed really well," Buddenbaum said. "Rockdale's a good team. We took them out of their game a little bit because we were able to dig their balls. When they were putting the ball over, we were passing it and hitting it down."

However, it was a different story regarding the second game.

Soon after a kill by Rockdale's Kelsey Girardot to tie it 4-4, Mikayla Charles took over.

After a powerful kill by Charles - one that had Buddenbaum pumped and filled with emotion - the Lady Patriots went on a 15-3 run.

"Well, my players sometimes play like I am," Buddenbaum said, "so if I'm upset they sometimes play scared. If I'm happy, they sometimes play well, so I'm trying to do more of that. I like to show emotion, but I gotta watch what I'm doing and be careful."

During Heritage's run, Charles added two more kills and three aces to make it 21-10.

"I felt like I had to keep the team up," Charles said, "so I tried to concentrate and not let the outside things get in the way of me serving. Then I just stayed up; you have to stay positive in a game like this."

Consecutive kills by Charles helped ice the game, ending the match.

"It's a big, big win because they are doing really well this year," Charles said.

Overall, Charles finished with seven kills and three aces. Bailey added five kills, while Arabia Umrani had four.

Aikens led Rockdale with seven kills. Mitchell and Girardot each recorded three kills.

"We just gotta do a better job of keeping that fire the whole match," Sansing said. "We definitely hit the ball very well - we know that we can hit with Heritage. We know that we can dig them and do some things against them. They didn't run us out of the gym, even in the second game.

"It was the first time seeing them in person," he added. "Now we'll know and I'll know as a coach what to prepare for specifically when we play them again."

Jason Murdock can be reached at jason.murdock@rockdalecitizen.com.