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Rockdale spikes Salem in two-game sweep

CONYERS - Rockdale's volleyball team had lost three of its last five matches heading into Tuesday's meeting with Salem. Instead of continuing the mini-slump, the Bulldogs took their frustrations out on their local rivals.

Lauren Aikens and Brianna Dennis had seven kills each and Chelsea Nunn had 19 assists as Rockdale swept Salem 25-9, 25-10.

Salem pulled even at 2-2 early in Game 2 when Nozipho Jacobs' brilliant dig led to a kill by Spencer Papallo and Erica McLean had a service ace. But after Nunn fed Kelsey Girardot for a kill that gave Rockdale a 7-4 lead, Katie Bryant took over. She picked up four consecutive aces, one of which led to a Salem timeout, and Girardot added a kill and an ace to give the Bulldogs a 14-5 lead. The visiting Seminoles wouldn't get any closer than seven points the rest of the way.

"(Bryant) definitely had some good serves, some aces; she's a spot server," Rockdale coach Stephen Sansing said. "Really, it was going to be a matter of time that someone was going to step up and do that."

Others got in on the fun later in the game. Taylor Burdette and Maya Van Meter each had an ace, and Libby Bradford fed Dennis for a kill that made it a 21-9 game. Sansing said Bradford, who filled in at setter for Nunn as she nursed a right shoulder injury earlier in the season, is more than capable of handling the setter responsibilities.

"(Nunn is) finally back healthy; when she's out there, she definitely gives us a lift," Sansing said. "Libby stepped in for her (and) I'm very confident in both our setters. I think we got the deepest two setters in the region."

Aikens, part of an imposing front line for Rockdale, added her final kill of the night to make it 25-10 and finish the sweep.

"They have some very tall girls and a very good offense," Salem coach Chanestia Davis said. "And they were hitting; every chance they got, they were hitting."

Rockdale cruised in the opener behind nine assists from Nunn. Leading 17-6, Dennis had two kills and Van Meter followed with two kills - one off a nice feed from Nunn and the other setting up match point.

"We played smart the whole night; made minimal errors," Sansing said. "We hit the ball well and passed well, and when we do those two things, we're all right. We're right where I want to be, actually. We lost to Habersham the other night, but I'm fully confident if we see them again (in the area tournament), we'll beat them. We played tight with Heritage ... I always like being the underdog."

Despite Salem's woes Tuesday night, Davis likes the direction her team is headed.

"They're working together more as a team, they're talking more," Davis said. "We're making progress each game. We're on our way."

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