A perfect choice

Published 6:51 pm Monday, November 28, 2011

Riverside coach Herbie Rogers’ team won 23 straight games this year as the Knights won the Four Rivers Conference title and a district championship. That effort led to Rogers being named the WDN Coach of the Year for the fourth straight time. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

WILLIAMSTON — Riverside volleyball coach Herbie Rogers expects perfection from his team and his players did their best to provide that this season as the Knights went undefeated all the way up until the Sectional Round of the playoffs where it was halted by a stellar NCSSM team.
Rogers has been coaching volleyball sine 2001 where he led Williamston to several conference titles before the school merged with Jamesville to form Riverside High School at the start of the 2010 sports season.
While the uniform and team name may have changed, the results didn’t as Rogers masterfully blended athletes from both schools to win a conference, district and sectional title in the school’s inaugural season.
This year, the Knights built on that success as they finished the regular season undefeated to win their second straight Four Rivers Conference crown, then made it all the way to the Sectional Round of the NCHSAA 1-A playoffs without even losing a set until it faced NCSSM, which left them with an incredible 23-1 record.
“He likes for you to be perfect,” said Knights’ setter Peri Ange, who was named the WDN Volleyball Player of the Year. “He likes you to get it right and I guess that’s the best way to about things because if you don’t do it right in practice you won’t do it in a game.”
Rogers has been near perfect himself, and after a 23-1 season that earned the school a conference crown and a district title, Rogers was a perfect choice to be named the Washington Daily News Volleyball coach of the Year for the fourth straight time.
For the past four seasons Rogers and a player on his team have swept the WDN postseason honors. The streak started in 2008 with Rogers teamed up with Presley Robertson to pull off the sweep, then it continued the next year as teammates Katie Paschal and Heather Jackson split player of the year honors before Meredith Roberson did it last year.
“The thing that stands out is that we were able to have a lot of good players come through our program,” Rogers said. “Even the girls from Jamesville that didn’t start as freshmen in our program, those girls can play volleyball and (former Jamesville coach and current Riverside assistant) Carrie Jones did a great job with them. We’ve had a lot of really good volleyball players come through here.”
Streaks can consume a team if it gets to focused on it but Rogers refused to let his Knights get too wrapped up with its flirtation with perfection.
“Winning all those games in a row was not something that we focused on,” Rogers said. “Our first goal was to get through non-conference undefeated, then the second goal was to get through the conference and take first place whether we were undefeated or not.”
For Rogers and the Knights, the march towards perfection started long before the season did.
“I thought our girls did a great job this summer of getting ready,” Rogers said. “We went to the Carolina Volleyball Camp and played some really good teams. We didn’t always win, but I thought we really played hard and got a chance to see some really good competition. I thought that helped us during the season.”
Equipped with fantastic hitters like Madison Brandon, Paxton Copeland, Rachel Baker and Rogers’ daughter Jesse Ann, along with a top-notch setter in Ange, Rogers said the team’s strength resides in its depth.
“The strength of the team was that everybody we put on the court can play,” Rogers said. “From our backline to our serving, to hitting. We were not one-dimensional this year where in the past we had one dominant hitter. I thought this year we had a bunch of people that gave us a lot of different options. Probably more so than we’ve had in a long time here.
“When you have girls who really don’t care who gets the ball or who gets the credit, in the end they’re excited about us winning. That’s a tribute to the girls that play here.”