Knights advance to third roundPublished 10:03pm Tuesday, October 22, 2013
WILLIAMSTON — The Riverside volleyball team fended off a feisty Gates County squad to pick up a 25-23, 25-21,23-25, 25-13 victory to advance to the third round of the NCHSAA 1-A playoffs on Tuesday.
The No. 1 seeded Knights (22-1, Two Rivers) found themselves locked in a heated contest with the No. 3-seeded Red Barons (17-4, Coastal 10) but was able to pull together to move on to Thursday’s third round matchup at home against No. 1 Perquimans (25-2, Coastal 10), who knocked off Rosewood on Tuesday.
“We’re very happy (to advance),” Riverside’s first-year coach James Ward said. “We’re just riding these girls right now. They just have to keep turning it up a notch every game.”
With the win, the Knights extended their winning streak to 20 games, but it was not easy.
Led by sophomore middle hitter Kailia Ballard, Gates County routinely tested the Riverside defense, but at the end of the day the Knights passed the test.
“This was a good test for us,” Ward said. “And a much needed test too.”
Riverside jumped out to a 13-5 lead in the first set, but Gates County stormed back to tie the game at 22 on a Janiah Edwards ace.
The Barons would take a 24-23 lead, but Riverside rebounded after a Gates County error and consecutive points by D’Aysa Wilson and Erica Gurkin to take the critical first set.
After playing passive ball against Plymouth in the first round, the Knights were pumped on Tuesday and Ward felt that energy was vital.
“I just think our energy and communication was great,” Ward said. “It was just so different than how we were against Plymouth.”
Riverside received a balanced effort all night long as setter Kasey Hall recorded a team-high 21 service points, while Gurkin added 19 and Wilson scored 18.
At the net, Gurkin, Wilson and Chesson Ward were strong, while Lawson Perry came up with clutch digs.
In the second set both team went point-for-point early until Riverside broke a 7-7 tie with a 12-5 run that culminated with back-to-back aces by Gurkin to go ahead 19-12.
Once again, Gates would push back, but the Knights held on to win 25-21.
“I think we played hard, but we just made a couple of key mistakes,” Gates County coach Jennifer Dean said. “We had some small mistakes and we suffered a little bit on serving and I think that’s what cost us.”
The Red Barons were able to piece it all together in the third set as they rallied back from a 15-10 deficit to pull out a 25-23 win on the strength of Ballard’s net play and some hot serving by Edwards.
However, in the fourth set Riverside responded with their best set of the match.
Hall and Perry served the Knights up to a 10-2 lead, which grew to 15-6 after a Wilson block. This time around, there would be no miraculous comeback from Gates County as Riverside pressed forward to clinch a 25-13 win and advance to the third round of the playoffs.