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Rockdale volleyball moves on to round 2

CONYERS -- The Rockdale High School volleyball team may have been just a game over .500 coming into Thursday's state tournament opener, but the Bulldogs didn't play like it. Jaida Allen had 17 kills, Natheree Lackey handed out 27 assists and Rockdale swept three games from Archer, 25-14, 25-12 and 25-23 in the opening round of the Class AAAAAA State Tournament.

Rockdale, which reached the state quarterfinals for the first time in school history in Class AAAAA a year ago, will try to get back to that point when it plays in the second round next Tuesday. The Bulldogs will either travel to Area 3-AAAAAA champion Harrison, or host Area 4-AAAAAA Lassiter, depending on how the teams fared Thursday in a match that ended too late for this edition. If the opponent turns out to be the area champion Hoyas, Rockdale coach Stephen Sansing is confident in his team, especially considering Rockdale dropped a pair of close games, 25-18 and 25-22 to the Hoyas on Oct. 6.

"We have confidence that we can play with (Harrison)," said Sansing, whose team improved to 28-24. "We've been playing really well (and) we just feel like that they definitely are hitting (their) stride. Being AAAAAA it's going to be hard this point forward. We're going to give it our best."

Rockdale led 21-14 in Game 3 before Archer (17-20), the No. 3 seed from Area 7-AAAAAA, scored seven straight to pull even at 21-21. The Bulldogs never trailed again, rattling off four of the final six points to seal the first round win.

"We just kind of made a few hitting errors," Sansing said of Archer's late come back. "We were up and should've put it away."

Allen and Lackey weren't the only contributors for Rockdale, which has become a well-balanced team over the last month. Abby Bradford had eight kills and three aces; Nazzerine Waldon had six kills and three aces; Jahkishma Soto added six aces and three kills; Majesti Bass collected four kills and Alycia Johnson chipped in with four aces from the libero position.

"Each game, one of them steps up, we take what the defenses gives us," Sansing said.

As construction is completed on Rockdale's new gymnasium, the teams moved the match to nearby Heritage High School. Sansing was grateful that a rival school could accommodate the playoff match and pleased at the fan turnout.

"It was a good atmosphere tonight," he said. "I really do appreciate Heritage High School allowing us to come over there, they were a very gracious host."