Conyers It took all five games, but the Rockdale volleyball team is moving on. Behind a key, 5-0 run and three clinching kills down the stretch of a deciding game five, Rockdale defeated Northgate 15-11 to win 3-2 in a first round match of the Class AAAA state playoffs. The Area 8-AAAA champion Bulldogs lost the first two games, but rallied to win the final three, setting up a round of 16 match next week in Conyers against the winner of Harris County-Ola.
"I told them I've never been as proud of any team I've coached," said Rockdale coach Stephen Sansing.
Rockdale (39-13) never trailed in the fifth game, building leads of 7-4 and 12-6 before the visitors from Coweta County fought back on a kill each by Elle McCord and Brittany Scarbrough to make it 12-10. But blessed by a fervent crowd, Abby Bradford had one of her three kills and Jaida Allen had a pair of kills, including the match-clinching block-kill to set off a raucous celebration inside Rockdale's cozy gym.
"The crowd, the fans...was awesome tonight," Sansing said. "It's probably the best crowd we've had all season."
It looked as if Class AAAA No. 9 Northgate, the No. 4 seed from Area 3, would sweep the first round match, leading 2-0 before grabbing a 21-19 lead late in game three. After Sansing called a time out, three Northgate errors and a kill and ace from Area 8-AAAA player of the year Kendra Lackey helped seal a 25-22 win. Rockdale forced the deciding game with a rally in game four, erasing a 17-13 deficit to score 12 of the last 17 points.
"The other thing I told them, after game two when we lost that second one, I said 'look girls, that's why we play five,'" said Sansing.
Northgate (27-24) won two close games to put the area champion Bulldogs on the brink of elimination. Trailing 12-6 in game one, Vikings coach Matt Trucks burned a time out and it seemed to ignite the visitors. After the break, Northgate got two aces and a block-kill from Hannah Gilman during an 18-5 run that made it 24-17. Rockdale got to within 24-23, but an error clinched a 25-23 win for the No. 4 seed. In a seesaw game two, no team led by more than three points after Libby Bradford's block-kill got the Bulldogs to within 20-19. A pair of Rockdale errors and McCord's kill helped Northgate again hang on for a 25-23 victory.
"We lost as close as you can lose (the first two games) so we knew we could hang with them," Sansing said. "That gave us the mindset that we can beat them. (Northgate is) a great team. I hate any team has to lose tonight. That was a like a sweet 16 match up right here."
Patriots season ends In first round
FAYETTEVILLE — Heritage's volleyball season came to an end Thursday as Class AAAA No. 2 Whitewater had no trouble in a 3-0 win. The Area 3-AAAA champion Wildcats, who improved to 38-14 with 25-9, 25-11 and 25-10 victories, will host either Jonesboro or Houston County next weekend. Heritage, the No. 4 seed from Area 8-AAAA, finished 20-20.
"Whitewater is amazing," said first-year Heritage coach Dawn Werner. "They’re well rounded and played very well. My girls, they played well for their level. To make it to a state tournament and have (20) wins is very good."
Heritage softball swept in first round
TUNNEL HILL — The season came to an end for the Heritage softball team Wednesday in Tunnel Hill. Emily Boyd didn’t allow an earned run over two games and Region 7-AAAA champion Northwest Whitfield swept the Patriots, 10-2 and 7-2 in the first round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.
“I thought we had a good season. Everybody wants to win every ball game they play, but I think our girls worked hard,” said Patriots coach Dickey Hightower, whose team lost their final five games after sweeping Salem in the first round of the Region 8-AAAA Tournament. “I think they got the most out of their talent (and) I think we had a great season. I’m sorry that it ended this way but I thought we played hard.”
Northwest Whitfield (25-6), with the junior Boyd leading the way, will host the winner of Pope-Dunwoody in a best-of-three second-round series next week, while Heritage finishes 23-12.
“They’re solid,” Hightower said of Northwest. “They play great defense, they got a good pitcher, one-through-nine they swing the bats pretty good. They’ll be in Columbus.”