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Patriots play for the cure

On the volleyball court, Saturday was a mixture of good and bad for Heritage. But the Patriots' second annual Susan G. Komen For The Cure Play Date wasn't all about volleyball. Heritage went 4-2 in the 12-team round-robin tournament that helped raise money for not only the breast cancer organization, but to aid former Heritage player Ashley Klen, who was recently diagnosed with the disease.

"It's just important for our girls to understand that when you have a stage you can really bring out a cause and people will go for it," Patriots coach David Buddenbaum said. "Most of the girls have someone in their life affected by cancer, not necessarily breast cancer. Our whole process is to raise awareness. The girls enjoy the cause."

Klen, who graduated from Heritage in 1998, was on the minds of everyone in attendance.

"Yesterday she had surgery ... partial gate will go to her," Buddenbaum said.

But the games continued and the Patriots opened the day strong with a sweep of Providence Christian 25-13, 25-21. Mikala Flonnoy (nine assists) and Rachel Jubran (six assists) spent the opener feeding Taylor Bailey, who had 13 kills, and Mikayla Charles, who added six.

Jonesboro provided a much stiffer test in the second match.

The Cardinals, who joined Heritage in last season's Class AAAA sectionals, won the first game in a seesaw battle 26-24. The visitors from Clayton County took their first lead of the game 23-22, but Heritage got two quick points on a hitting error and Charles' ace to go up 24-23 and set up game point. Jonesboro didn't flinch, collecting the final three points on two hitting errors by Bailey and Kayla Dowdell's kill. With the score tied 13-13 in game two, Heritage took advantage of several Cardinals' errors and three kills from Arabia Umrani, one off a pretty feed from Kacie Bradley to win 25-17. The rubber match went back and forth as well with Heritage getting late kills from Bailey and Flonnoy and Jabron's ace to help put Jonesboro away 25-17.

"We did not pass very well in that first game (against Jonesboro)," Buddenbaum said. "Games two (and) three our passing improved and our serving improved. As long as we're running our offense, we're fine."

Heritage followed with a sweep of Dutchtown 25-15, 25-22. Bailey was the star in game one, picking up eight kills, including a game-clinching spike. The Bulldogs hung tough in the second game, pulling to within 22-19 on Jubran's service error, but made three errors down the stretch to help seal the Patriots' victory.

"We served real well and we played real good defense," Buddenbaum said of the Dutchtown victories. "A lot of it starts with our serving."

The winning continued against Landmark Christian. The Patriots got 13 kills from Bailey and nine assists from Jubran in 25-16 and 25-19 wins over the War Eagles, who were just two victories from the final four a year ago.

Thing turned sour for the Patriots in a two-game loss to Northgate. The Vikings, who play in the strong Area 3-AAAA that produced last season's Class AAAA champion Sandy Creek as well as final four team Whitetwater, got five consecutive aces from Brooke McCord and jumped out to leads of 8-0 and 14-1 and hung on for a 25-19 win in game one. Heritage tied the game two at 9-9 on Charles' kill, but the Vikings scored 13 of the next 16 points, three on kills from Mallory Maldino and cruised to a 25-15 victory.

"We didn't play very well; the serve receiving was atrocious," said Buddenbaum. "The (game one) deficit was too much. You go down that big to anyone in the state and you're going to lose. (Game two) they weren't going to let it happen again; they have a lot of pride. We just didn't play well."

Heritage finished the day with a three-game loss to Athens Academy (24-26, 27-25, 15-25).

Rockdale went 2-4 at the Play Date, defeating Dutchtown (25-14, 25-21) and Prince Avenue Christian (25-16, 25-21), before dropping matches to Athens Academy (25-12, 25-19); Eagle's Landing Christian (25-21, 25-13); Union Grove (25-23, 25-22); and Jonesboro (25-21, 25-19).

"We just have some things we have to work on," Bulldogs coach Stephen Sansing said. "We were competitive in most of the games, we'd just make an error at the wrong time and that's what kills us. (The opponents) were all good teams today."

Despite the disappointing record, Rockdale improved on last season's 0-6 showing in the Heritage Play Date.

"We'll use this as a learning experience," Sansing said.

Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at kurt.aschermann@rockdalecitizen.com.