CONYERS - This one lived up to its pre-match billing.
The Heritage volleyball team needed three games, including a rally in the third, to outlast county rival Rockdale on Tuesday night.
"That was a great volleyball match. We both know each other so well that I knew it was going to be close," Heritage coach David Buddenbaum said. "Rockdale played well, but we did what we needed to do at the end of the third game to win it."
The Lady Patriots won the opening game 25-18 and then were one point away from winning the match in game two at 24-18 before the Lady Bulldogs came storming back.
On Elizabeth Fox's service, Rockdale won six straight points to claim a 26-24 win and force a third game.
"That's what we expected. We knew it was going to be a fight," Rockdale coach Stephen Sansing said. "Game two, once we decided we wanted to play, we got things going. The main thing (in game two) was we got in that rotation with our big front line and Elizabeth Fox serving, and it was a good combination for us at the end."
The Lady Bulldogs (10-8 overall, 3-1 Area 8-AAAA) led for most of the third game before the Lady Patriots (14-4, 4-0) took their first lead at 18-17.
At that point, senior setter Rachel Jubran took over for Heritage, and not with her passing skills.
"Rachel did things that she normally doesn't do." Buddenbaum said. "She had a kill with a tip, which was key, and then she scored on some swings that really changed things up. I told her she needed to change things. We were becoming a little too predictable."
Jubran picked up a key kill and dropped in four other key shots down the stretch to help the Lady Patriots clinch the match with a 25-22 win.
"I knew I had to improve my tipping skills in order to get a kill, so I was working on that and trying to find the holes," Jubran said. "I started to play smart and was thinking where I would be and I tried to put it where I wouldn't be.
"It was definitely a little nerve-racking giving up that lead in the second game. Rockdale is our big rival and we always we want to beat them. I think we played really well."
In game one, Oliva Wasdin's service was the key for Heritage. The senior scored six straight points off her serve as the Lady Patriots built a 15-8 lead.
Heritage closed out the game one victory getting kills from Mikayla Charles, Taylor Bailey and Arabia Umrani.
"Olivia's service in game one was the difference. She scored a ton of points in a row," Buddenbaum said. "Overall, I thought we served the ball well tonight. We just didn't have a lot of aces."
In game two, Wasdin served four straight points to push Heritage to a 23-18 advantage, but then Rockdale's Kelsey Girardot ignited the rally with a kill and a block.
On Fox's service, Janess O'Kane, Lauren Aikens and Girardot collected kills to help tie the match.
In game three, Rockdale led 13-9 and 17-15, but Heritage's Kacie Bradley tied the match at 17 with a kill and the Lady Patriots never trailed again.
Jubran found two holes in the Rockdale formation and dropped in two swings for a 20-18 lead before a Charles kill extended it to 21-18.
Jubran's kill made it 24-20 and then Rockdale pushed a shot wide on match point.
"We still have our times where sometimes we're not as consistent as we need to be," Sansing said. "That's what got us at the end. Both sides were making plays, but they made a couple more when they had to."
Charles paced Heritage with 13 kills against Rockdale, while Bailey chipped in 11 and four blocks. Rockdale's Girardot had 14 kills and Aikens finished with nine.
In other action at the tri-meet, Rockdale beat Houston County in its first match 25-21 and 25-19, while Heritage topped Houston County 25-22, 25-17.
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at email@example.com.