Though the day ended on a sour note, the Rockdale volleyball team received picked up plenty of valuable experience Saturday. The Bulldogs played four state tournament teams from 2012 and went 2-2 at the North Cobb Playdate, hosted by Harrison High School.
Rockdale (9-4) dropped a pair of games to Columbus, last year’s Class AAA runner-up, in the final match of the tournament. The Bulldogs led 17-15 late in the opener, but picked up just two more offensive points and Columbus’ outside hitter Natalie Twyford had four kills and Michelle Vatral added two of her own as the Blue Devils held on for a 25-21 victory. Rockdale also held a two-point lead in game two, 11-9, before Columbus scored 12 of the next 14 points - three more on Twyford kills and six Rockdale errors - and took a commanding, 21-13 lead before clinching the match with a 25-17 win.
In its third match of the day, Rockdale took two games from Allatoona, a Class AAAAA round of 16 team last season, 25-18 and 25-19. The opener was tight for much of the way with Allatoona getting as close as four points at 17-13 on a Rockdale error. Once Majesti Bass’s had a rocket for a kill it was a 20-13 game and the Bulldogs’ lead never fell below six points the rest of the way.
The teams were tied at 8-8 early in the second game, then Natheree Lackey found Bass for a pair of kills and Alycia Johnson had an ace to put Rockdale up 15-10. The Buccaneers, a sixth-year school in Cobb County, pulled to within 15-12 after a kill from Meara Simmons and Sam Nettie’s ace.
Rockdale reasserted itself, thanks to a pair of aces from Abby Bradford, and later, Bass and Lackey hooked up again for a kill and a 23-14 cushion.
Rockdale and Harrison got reacquainted in the first match of the day, meeting for the first time since Harrison won a 3-0 match in the second round of last year’s Class AAAAAA playoffs.
The host Hoyas, who are hoping to return to the state finals, turned a slim, 10-8 advantage midway through game two into a lopsided, match-clinching victory, thanks to a 15-4 game-ending run.
In game one, it was back and forth early and Rockdale closed to within 11-10 on a Lackey-to-Bradford hook up, one of Bradford’s five kills in the match. The Hoyas took leads of 20-13 and 22-15, but Rockdale climbed back to make it a 22-19 deficit after three consecutive Harrison errors. Bass had three of her team-high eight match kills down the stretch to keep the Bulldogs in striking distance, but Caroline Ostman had a kill off a feed from Madison Bright to give Harrison a 25-22 victory.
“They had great servers, servers just got us in the second game. And (also), once we lost (game one) we had a kind of momentum shift,” said Rockdale coach Stephen Sansing. “We were a little flat in second game.”
Rockdale bounced back with a 2-0 victory over Kennesaw Mountain, another Class AAAAAA state playoff team from a year ago. A Rockdale error allowed Kennesaw Mountain to cut its deficit to 11-7, but the opening game was all Rockdale after that. Led by Nazzerine Waldon, who picked up three consecutive aces, and setter Lackey, who chipped in with three kills, the Conyers school scored 11 of the next 12 points to take command at 22-8 and cruised to a 25-11 win.
Rockdale had an eight-point cushion trimmed to four points on several occasions during a much tighter game two. After consecutive kills by Bass it was 21-15 before the Cobb County school had a quick, 7-3 spurt - aided by five Rockdale errors - to make it a 24-22 game. Lackey, who had seven assists during the match, fed Bradford for the game-winner.
“All these teams, they all know how to play,” Sansing said of the six-team field, which also included another of Class AAAAAA’s top teams, South Forsyth.
The Heritage volleyball team placed second at the Walnut Grove Tournament Saturday. The Patriots lost in two games to North Oconee, but bounced back with three consecutive victories.
The Patriots, led by second-year coach Julie Kristin, defeated county rival Salem 25-16, 25-22; Newton 25-20, 25-18, and rebounded from a 25-21 game one loss to Walnut Grove and won game two 27-25 and the rubber game, 15-11. Brianna Dafney and Mycah Boland led the Patriots in kills.
“Kind of dug themselves a hole in the beginning (but) they played really well,” said Kristin. “They fought hard against all the teams.”