Knights march forwardPublished 6:35pm Monday, October 21, 2013
WILLIAMSTON — The Riverside volleyball team continued its workman-like approach through the season as it fended off an upstart Plymouth program to earn a 3-1 victory in the first round of the NCHSAA 1-A playoffs on Saturday.
The No. 1-seeded Knights (21-1, Coastal Plains Conference), jumped out to a two-set lead over the Vikings (9-10, Coastal 10), before dropping the third set. However, Riverside rebounded in the fourth to punch its ticket to tonight’s second round matchup at home against No. 3 Gates County (17-4, Coastal 10).
“Plymouth was a real athletic team,” Riverside’s first-year coach James Ward said. “They had a couple of girls that could really block. We won the first two sets, but lost the third to them. They played harder that us, but we were able to win the fourth. To Plymouth’s credit they blocked us a lot. They played really good at the net.”
A dropped set has been a rare occurrence for a Riverside team that has only lost one game all year and surges into the second round riding a 19-game winning streak.
For most teams losing a set is nothing to sweat. However, Ward is hoping that the setback will serve as a reminder to his players that they are not immortal, something that he warned them about as they entered the playoffs.
“I told them at the start of the playoffs that they’re going to be playing good teams and that they have to play a complete match,” Ward said. “We don’t need to take a set off or a point off. We need to play every point of every set and be consistent.”
Riverside will resume its playoff run tonight at home against Gates and Ward said the key to their success lies in the Knights ability to continue to execute the fundamentals.
“We just have to keep doing our thing,” Ward said. “We have to eliminate mistakes and stay together out there on the court as a team. If we drop a set we can’t get made at ourselves or anybody else, we just have to rebound and keep going.
“I tell them you got about five second after each point to get over it, whether it’s a good point or a bad point. You have to move on.”
Working in Ward’s favor is that he has a roster full of playoff-tested seniors in D’Aysa Wilson, Alexis Warren, Kasey Hall, Lawson Perry, Chesson Ward, Erica Gurkin and Shonteia Lawrence. Whether it be in volleyball, softball or basketball, a majority of those seniors have played in several big games and that should payoff as they advance.
“It’s definitely their team. They’re the ones who have taken us this far,” Ward said. “They’re a good group of girls and they do not like to lose and that shows on the court.”