Home Local News Ellerbe Middle volleyball team advances to round 2

Ellerbe Middle volleyball team advances to round 2

Photo by Deon Cranford

Ellerbe Middle’s volleyball team started the season with a pair of exciting five-set victories. The first was over in-county rival Rockingham while the next was a victory against Anson Orange.

The Lady Wildcats welcomed Anson Orange on Thursday in round 1 of the middle school championship tournament and showed just how much they’ve improved this season by taking the match in just three sets (25-11, 25-17, 31-29).

Kenley Smith put her team ahead early with seven services points including five consecutive aces. The Lady Wildcats used exceptional defensive work from Madyson Cloninger and ZyRihanna Robinson to keep several rallies alive resulting in several Anson Orange hitting errors.

Ellerbe continued to attack its visitors with strong serves and rallies preventing Anson Orange from having any opportunity of closing the gap. Zoe’ Isaac and Kaylee Conner each contributed aces in the closing moments to give the home team a relatively easy 25-11 set one win.

Anson Orange responded at the start of set two answering each of Ellerbe’s points with one of their own with most of their success coming from strong serves. After Anson Orange moved ahead 8-7, Ellerbe coach Jonathan Chavez called a timeout to settle down his team.

Chavez steps into each break with some instruction to provide but is no stranger to handing the meetings off to his leaders to provide encouragement.

“Kenley Smith gave the team some great motivation in the huddle,” shared Chavez. “She told the team to communicate, give 100%, and to calm down and play the game at our tempo.”

Shortly after the break, Lillian Hill stepped into the serving area and slapped three hard serves into play to put her team back on top. After the two teams traded points for a while, it was Kaylee Conner’s turn to serve. The seventh-grader managed to string together six service points including a pair of aces giving her team a 21-16 lead.

Anson Orange managed a temporary stop to the run, but after one exchange, Smith hit three aces to end the set at 25-17 and put the home team ahead 2-0 in the series.

Advertisements

Remembering the previous five-set encounter, Chavez knew that Anson Orange would not just bow out.

“After the second set, I told them to continue the intensity, communication, and have fun,” Chavez shared. “I told them to continue to trust and encourage each other on the court.”

The third set felt much more like a playoff match. Anson Orange cleared up some of its passing and communication miscues of the first two sets leading to some extremely long rallies. Towards the end of the set, Ellerbe found itself with a narrow lead at 19-17. As they had done in the previous set, it appeared as though the Lady Wildcats were going to go on a late run and steal the win without allowing their visitors to have a chance to respond.

Anson Orange was denied two points courtesy of two impressive defensive plays by Abby Robinson. That pair of returns coupled with an Anson Orange error increased Ellerbe’s lead to 23-17.

With the set and match seemingly at hand, the momentum shifted as it was Ellerbe’s turn to get bit by the error but. Three straight miscues cut the lead to three at 23-20. After one exchange, Anson Orange managed to put together another short run knotting the game at 24-24.

The match then transformed into an agonizing game of tit for tat as each team seemed to answer the other’s points on long rallies denying either of them the two-point advantage necessary to claim victory. In the end, it was the Lady Wildcats that managed to make the fewest mistakes and claim a 31-29 win on an Anson Orange error.

“We are an underdog and have improved so much every single game,” Chavez said following the win. “We just have to continue to believe, have fun, and motivate each other.”

Smith ended the match with a season high 28 successful serves with 17 aces. Connor contributed five aces, Cloninger had three aces, Hill added two aces, Isaac and Robinson each finished with an ace.

No. 3 Ellerbe (9-2) will now have to travel to No. 2 Anson Blue (8-2) who defeated them earlier in the season. The SEMSAC round two match will take place on Monday at 4 p.m.

Previous articleNo. 4 Rockingham outlasts No. 5 Hamlet in first round of playoffs
Next articleOPINION: Politicians should hold their tongues