Home Local Sports Middle School Sports Report: Volleyball, cross country results

Middle School Sports Report: Volleyball, cross country results

Photos by Deon Cranford.

Ellerbe still in the hunt for the top spot in the middle school standings 

On Thursday, Ellerbe Middle’s volleyball team once again used a stellar serving performance to claim another victory.  With a three-set match win (25-12, 25-20, 25-15) over Spring Hill Middle at home, the Lady Wildcats are now 7-1 entering the final week of the regular season.

Ellerbe currently sits second in the conference standings and will play its final two matches of the season on Monday and Tuesday, with Monday’s match at undefeated Sandy Grove possibly determining who claims the number one seed for the conference tournament.  On Tuesday, the Lady Wildcats will close out its season on the road at Carver Middle, a match that was rescheduled from last week.

It’s an incredible turnaround for a program that was winless just a season ago.

Ellerbe wasted no time in dispatching Spring Hill on Thursday with Kenley Smith opening with five consecutive service points including four aces.  The team continued to serve well, but also used strong rally play, including several impressive digs and passes by Madyson Cloninger, to go on a 12-2 run and quickly put the opening set out of reach.  A little back-and-forth scoring followed, but Kaylee Connor entered the serving area and recorded the final two service points in the 25-12 set one win.

It appeared as though the momentum had shifted at the start of the second set.  Spring Hill opened on a 7-1 run forcing Ellerbe coach Jonathan Chavez to call a timeout.

After the quick break, Ellerbe returned to form with Abby Robinson ripping off six consecutive aces during an 8-0 run forcing the Lady Spartans to call at a timeout. The two teams traded points for a while until Cloninger (19 service points, 3 aces) took over serving duties.  With the energetic eighth grader in the serving area, Ellerbe tallied the next six points (two aces) to move ahead by five at 22-17.  From there, the home team held on for a 25-20 win to move to 2-0 in the match.

Errors plagued both teams at the start of the third, but Ellerbe’s Alisson Gonzalez Santiago took over and made a series of strong defensive plays to keep rallies going and allowing the Lady Wildcats to string together some points resulting in a 14-8 advantage and a Spring Hill timeout.

Lillian Hill added to the lead with six straight service points including an ace.  After a short run by Spring Hill, Ellerbe closed out the set and match scoring four straight points with Connor serving.

With two big upcoming matches to close out the season, Chavez feels that his team is gelling at the right time entering the final week.  “We will continue to work hard at practice,” Chavez shared. “I am seeing a stronger chemistry among the players which will make us a stronger team.”

Smith had 14 successful serves with 9 aces, Hill had 9 successful serves with 1 ace, ZyRihanna Robinson had 6 successful serves, Kaylee Connor had 7 successful serves with 2 aces, Santiago had 4 successful serves with 2 aces and Robinson had 9 successful serves with 6 aces.

Jonathan Chavez contributed information and stats for this story.

Rockingham defeats Hamlet in rivalry match

The Rockingham volleyball team won its annual rivalry match at Hamlet Middle School with an impressive 3-0 rout of the Lady Red Rams (25-22, 25-20, and 25-23).

Hamlet (6-3) entered last week with one loss and an opportunity to move into first place in the conference standings, but back-to-back losses to Sandy Grove and Rockingham have dropped the Lady Red Rams to fifth. Rockingham (6-3), on the other hand, used a pair of wins over in-county opponents Cordova and Hamlet to climb the standings – beginning the week in sixth place and ending it in fourth.  

The match was ultimately decided by the success or failure of late rally efforts.  In the opening set, the Lady Red Rams led by seven points late, but some stellar serving combined with a few ill-timed Hamlet errors allowed the Lady Rockets to steal the set by 3 (25-22).

In the second set, Hamlet’s Riley McDonald did all she could to keep Rockingham’s strong serving from allowing the Lady Rockets to pull away.  McDonald had three kills and two digs in the opening moments of the second set keeping her team within one point of the visitors (7-6, Rockingham).

After trading the next few points on errors, an ace from Hamlet’s Kalynn McCormick knotted the set up at 10-10.

With Madisen Jackson serving, Rockingham followed with a devastating 6-point run, including three aces.  Also during the run, Rockingham’s Addison Butler managed to tip a ball upward after it had deflected off of the net.  What seemed destined to be a Hamlet point turned the other way as Butler’s tip elevated the ball straight into the crosshairs of teammate Haley Singleton who slammed the ball into open space for an impressive kill.  

With all of the momentum and a 7-point lead (17-10), the Lady Rockets kept their feet on the gas.  After the two teams traded points on errors, a Singleton ace and Lady Red Ram miscue forced Hamlet to take its second timeout of the set.

Down 21-13, the Lady Red Rams hoped to mirror Rockingham’s first set rally with one of their own.  Aces from Mcdonald and Aimee Lynn Dobson combined with a kill from Lexi Smith aided a 6-2 run to run to bring Hamlet to within four at 23-19.  The Lady Rockets managed to settle down and outlast Hamlet on a pair of long rallies to capture a 25-20 set two win.

Jackson and Butler contributed kills to a strong start for Rockingham in set three, but big plays once again from McDonald kept the Lady Red Rams close.

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With her team trailing by one at 8-7, Rockingham’s Abbie Taylor rotated into the serving area.  Taylor collected 8 straight service points including five aces to give the Lady Rockets at commanding 15-8 lead.

The Lady Red Rams would later use an ace from Annika Briggs and a trio of Rockingham errors to cut the deficit to three at 16-13.  McDonald, Briggs, Dobson, Smith and Mackenzie Quick all seemed to get comfortable jumping in front of the Lady Rockets’ hard serves and putting them in play, taking Rockingham’s advantage away from them.

After winning a few long rallies, the Lady Red Rams found themselves behind only by a single point at 18-17.

After a Butler kill stalled Hamlet’s comeback efforts, back-to-back kills by Jackson put the Lady Rockets withing one point of claiming the set and match at 24-19.

McDonald refused to go down without a fight.  After a Rockingham error gave the ball back to the Lady Red Rams one last time, McDonald slapped three line-drive serves at the Lady Rockets that they could not control.  With the score now at 24-23, McDonald sent one more missile just over the net in an effort to tie things up, but it sailed past the Lady Rockets and landed outside of the endline giving the point, set, and match to Rockingham.

The Lady Rockets are likely to win its third straight when it travels to a struggling Anson Orange on Monday while Hamlet may have its hands full with a scrappy Cordova team looking to rebound after tough losses last week.

Rockingham Boys, Ellerbe Girls lead Richmond County runners at meet

The middle school cross country teams ran in their second meet of the season at Spring Hill Middle School on Thursday.

In the boys race, East Hoke (23) won the day.  Rockingham (54), Hamlet (70), Cordova (81), and Ellerbe (95) finished in second, fourth, fifth and sixth respectively out of the eight competing teams.

In the girls race, there were only four participating team.  West Hoke (28) finished first while Ellerbe (48) finished in second, Hamlet (53) finished in third and Rockingham (70) was fourth.

Times for Rockingham Boys: Bryan Mendoza 15:16, Patrick Smith 15:00, Jaxon Perhealth 16:54, Liam Ellis 16:38, Carter Hunt 16:54 and Logan Carter 18:17.

Times for Rockingham Girls: Dayanna Franco 17:07, Cameron Veach 20:23, Hallie allen 20:15, McKensey Puckett 22:53, Blair Miller 23:00 and Ashtyn Wilson 23:15.

Individual times for other schools were not available at press time.

Amanda Gainey and Grover McDonald contributed cross county information.

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