Knights earn district crown

Published 9:42 pm Thursday, October 27, 2011

Riverside’s Madison Brandon (7) soars through the air as she spikes the ball past the Camden defense during the Knights’ 3-0 win over the Bruins in the District Round of the NCHSAA 1-A playoffs Thursday at Riverside High School. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

WILLIAMSTON — An incredible team effort led to another sensational win for the Riverside volleyball team as it took down Four Rivers Conference rival Camden in the third round of the NCHSAA 1-A playoffs to win a thrilling three-set match and the school’s second straight district championship on Thursday.
With the win, the No.1 seeded Knights kept their undefeated season alive and extended their winning streak to 23 games as they wait to play the winner of the No. 1 Raleigh Charter-No.2 NCSSM matchup in the Sectional Round of the playoffs Saturday at a time yet to be determined.
What was determined long before Thursday was that this year’s Riverside team is a complete one that has gotten clutch play from everybody on its roster. Against the Bruins (18-7), the second seed from the Four Rivers Conference, Knights’ coach Herbie Rogers looked on as seemingly each player on his team took turns making plays against a quality Camden team. After the game, Rogers said that he has never coached a team that has been this balanced.
“I really haven’t. We always have had one or two girls that were really good players, but this group that steps on the court really plays together,” Rogers said.
“The good thing about it is last year a lot of them played together and this year we got most of the same group back and they have worked hard to get where they are and it shows.”
Battling against a tall and athletic Camden frontcourt, the Knights got a tremendous effort from Alex Hardison, who had a team-high seven blocks. Also playing solid defense up front were Rachel Baker and Jesse Ann Rogers, who each block three attempts.
On the offensive side of the ball, Paxton Copeland and Baker were a force up front as they tallied nine kills each and were followed by Rogers and Madison Brandon who had five and four kills, respectively.
Setting up the girls up front was Peri Ange, who did a great job quarterbacking the team as she dished out 61 asissts.
“Every time the ball comes over the net she is probably going to touch it,” Rogers said. “My hat’s off to her, she really played well tonight. For a team to get this far your setter has to be really good, and we are blessed to have her.”
On the serving line, Brandon’s play was also a factor as she scored a team-high 10 service points, while Alexis Ange was right behind her with seven.
Serving played a big role in Riverside’s win, especially in Game 1, when the team went on a run in the middle portion of the match to seal a 25-20 victory.
“We got on a serving run … one of our players stepped up to the line and we were able to get a couple of points in a row,’ Rogers said. “If you can make a run like that then you can just play side out.”
The second match was even more exciting than the first one as it featured 12 ties and numerous big plays that led to two teams being tied at 20-20. Only five points away from a win, the Knights would not be denied as they went on a 5-2 run to close out the game and take a 2-0 lead.
In the third match, Riverside fell behind 20-14 and it appeared that it would lose its first match of the postseason. However, the team did what it always does and rallied behind some great serving and some blistering spikes from the likes of Baker, Brandon, Rogers and Copeland to finish the game on an 11-3 run.
Rogers said the ability for multiple players on his roster to send powerful shots over the net was key in combating the lanky Bruins.
“We had a lot of different people that can hit. If you just have one hitter than they can concentrate on that and shut it down,” Rogers said. “But tonight we had a lot of good people do a lot of good things for us.”