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Heritage, Rockdale prevail in region tournament openers

ATHENS - The Heritage and Rockdale volleyball teams are just one victory away from earning trips to the Class AAAA state playoffs.

The Lady Patriots and the Lady Bulldogs both chalked up victories in the opening round of the Area 8-AAAA Tournament on Thursday night at Clarke Central High School.

Heritage (35-8) defeated Cedar Shoals 23-25, 25-9, 25-17 in its opening match. The Lady Patriots, who are the defending Area 8-AAAA champions, advance to play Clarke Central in the semifinals at 10 a.m. Saturday.

"We didn't play very well in the first game. I think we had like eight service errors in the opening game," Heritage coach David Buddenbaum said. "Overall, we just didn't have the focus we needed. But it's good to get a win under our belts. Now we can come back Saturday and get refocused."

Arabia Unrami paced the Patriots with a 11 kills, Taylor Bailey chipped in nine and Mikayla Charles finished with eight.

Kacie Bradley paced Heritage with 18 service points in the victory. Olivia Wasdin added seven.

Rachel Jubran recorded a team-high 11 assists to go along with five points, while Mikala Flonnoy added 10 assists and two kills.

Rockdale (28-14) rallied from a 21-17 deficit to claim the opening game against Winder-Barrow 25-22. The Lady Bulldogs closed out their victory with a 25-19 decision in game two.

On Saturday, Rockdale faces Habersham Central in the other semifinal game at 10 a.m.

"We played really well. Winder has two big middle hitters, so we kind of game-planned against their middle hitters. We worked on our defense against that and it worked out for us," Rockdale coach Stephen Sansing said. "We made them basically alter their shots and took them out of their game a little bit. Once we did that, we served well and defensively we played hard.

"Actually, we were down 21-17 in the first game, but we came back to win. I was proud of our team for not giving up on that game."

Lauren Aikens had a team-high eight kills for Rockdale, followed by Janess O'Kane with seven and Chelsea Dennis with five.

Chelsea Nunn chalked up 13 assists for the Lady Bulldogs, while Libby Bradford was a perfect 18-for-18 on serves and had four aces.

In postseason volleyball action today, Alcovy faces North Clayton at 5 p.m. in the opening round of the Area 4-AAAA Tournament at Dutchtown, while Newton meets Stephenson at 5:30 p.m. in the opening round of the Area 2-AAAAA Tournament at Luella.