First-round split: Heritage rolls, Rockdale falls in state volleyball

CONYERS - For Heritage, the first round of the Class AAAA state volleyball playoffs was a breeze Thursday, but for Rockdale, it was the end of the line.

The Lady Patriots (39-8) advanced to the second round with a three-game sweep of North Clayton by scores of 25-7, 25-13 and 25-8. Heritage will host Lakeside-DeKalb on Tuesday, with the winner of that match advancing to the Final Eight at Marist. Lakeside-DeKalb beat Evans in its first-round match.

Meanwhile, Rockdale (30-17) was eliminated in three games by Dutchtown, falling by scores of 25-17, 25-22 and 25-14.

North Clayton at Heritage

The Lady Patriots stuck to their game plan against an overmatched North Clayton team.

"We've played a few teams like that this year, and our focus going in was to play our game because we didn't really care what they could do," Heritage coach David Buddenbaum said. "We were expecting the ball to come back quickly (from them). So our whole purpose today was to focus on our game. If they three-balled back, we passed and then hit.

"We played volleyball the way we want to play volleyball and did a good job doing that. We didn't let a lot of balls touch the floor and didn't let a lot of balls get away from us."

The easy win also gave Heritage a chance to play all 16 players in the match, giving the younger players on the roster some state playoff experience.

"We got everybody some experience. All 16 of them got to play, so that was positive," Buddenbaum said. "Some of the younger players played well. (Jenny) Chapman is coming off a injury and she got a good game in. She didn't get to play last week very much, so that was good."

Taylor Bailey paced the Lady Patriots in hitting with 13 kills and one block. Mikayla Charles added six kills, three aces and seven service points.

Setter Rachel Jubran had 18 assists, 15 service points and six kills. Mikala Flonnoy also added 18 assists.

Arabia Unrami finished the match with five kills, nine service points and three aces.

Dutchtown at Rockdale

The Lady Bulldogs never got anything going against visiting Dutchtown.

After dropping the first game, Rockdale rallied in game two but couldn't complete the comeback and lost by three points.

In the third game, Lauren Aikens and Brianna Dennis each had two kills early to help the Lady Bulldogs open up a 10-6 lead.

But Dutchtown took 19 of the final 23 points to close out the victory.

"We just didn't have the emotion today. I guess it's that lack of being in this place (the state tournament) before that kind of came up and bit us a little bit," Rockdale coach Stephen Sansing. "The only real good thing we can take out of it is a learning experience. Being in this environment will be good for the girls for the next year. We have a strong core combing back, basically seven or eight players.

"There wasn't any phase of the game tonight that we were any good in. In the middle game, we came back. We had a chance, but we never took the lead."

Aikens had 13 kills to pace the Lady Bulldogs, while Dennis chipped in nine. Chelsea Nunn chalked up 17 assists.

"I told the girls I was proud of them. We've done things this year that we've never done before at Rockdale," Sansing said. "We finished number two in the regular season, finished number two in the area tournament and hosted a playoff game. But I hate to go out like this because it wasn't our best (effort)."

Jeff Gillespie can be reached at jeff.gillespie@rockdalecitizen.com.