Home Local Sports No. 4 Rockingham outlasts No. 5 Hamlet in first round of playoffs

No. 4 Rockingham outlasts No. 5 Hamlet in first round of playoffs

Madisen Jackson (left) and Riley McDonald (right) during Thursday's playoff match. (Deon Cranford)

ROCKINGHAM — Thursday’s matchup between Rockingham and Hamlet in the first round of the middle school conference volleyball championship was everything you could hope for from a rivalry game. Hard kills, impressive digs, extended sets, and long rallies kept those in attendance in suspense throughout.

In the end, it was No. 4 Rockingham winning the day 3-1 (26-24, 24-26, 25-18, 25-19) and advancing to the second round of the tournament.

The opening set would set the tone for what would be an exciting afternoon. As she has done all season, Madisen Jackson started off strong from the serving area helping her team jump out to an early 7-1 advantage.  Along with a pair of aces from Jackson, Kaylan Parsons added a kill in the early run.  

No. 5 Hamlet’s Lexi Smith and Mackenzie Quick stalled the run with a pair of kills, but Parsons answered with a well-placed tip to put the Lady Rockets back in control.  Rockingham‘s Hailey Singleton extended the home team’s lead with two more aces putting the Lady Rockets ahead 11-4.

Two Rockingham errors and a couple of aces from Quick cut Hamlet’s deficit to just three.  Moments later an ace from Hamlet’s Annika Briggs and two more from Kalynn McCormick pulled the Lady Red Rams to within one point at 14-13.

Next would come a series of back-and-forth points with many being scored on highlight reel style plays. Parsons started the show with an off-balance tip kill off of an impressive diving dig from Singleton.  Hamlet’s Aimee Lynn Dobson later slapped down a hard kill to end a long rally that saw the ball pass over the net thirteen times. 

Jackson and Parsons remained hot from the serving area with each tallying aces for the Lady Rockets and Briggs drove a hard shot into the floor between two diving Lady Rockets to keep her Lady Red Rams in the fight

With her team ahead 22-20, Rockingham coach Wandesha Jackson called a timeout.

Two long rallies followed, each ending in a Hamlet miscue setting up match point for Rockingham with the score at 24-20.  However, two Rockingham errors, a kill from McCormick, and an ace from Quick knotted the set at 24-all.

Rockingham regained the lead on a Hamlet error and the Lady Rockets captured set one (26-24) on an ace from Addison Butler.

Jackson continued her success at the start of set two.  In addition to two aces, she recorded a kill with a spike and contributed two digs to a rally that ended in a Hamlet error.  Hamlet’s Riley McDonald stopped the bleeding with a pair of aces and a kill to cut Rockingham’s early lead to one point at 6-5.  After the Lady Rockets moved ahead by three again, back-to-back kills from McDonald and Dobson returned the deficit to a single point.

The two teams continue to take turns lighting up the scoreboard until Hamlet managed to string together four straight points with Smith serving resulting in a 18-17 Hamlet lead – the first lead of the match for the Lady Red Rams.

A few moments later, two aces and a kill from Butler helped Rockingham regain the lead at 23-22.

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With the score tied at 24-24, the two teams battled hard for the set’s 25th point.  After fourteen trips over the net, the ball found its way to Briggs who set the ball perfectly for McDonald.  McDonald faked a hard hit but tipped it over to the unsuspecting Lady Rockets.  The set then ended on a Rockingham error resulting in a 26-24 Hamlet win knotting the series at 1-1.

Again, Jackson gave her team an early lead in set three with seven straight service points (4 aces).  Despite some excellent plays by McDonald, Dobson and McCormick, serving errors plagued Hamlet throughout the third period preventing them from mounting any kind of comeback.  In addition to their own miscues, Rockingham’s Abbie Taylor and Alley Crouch put on a digging clinic thwarting numerous Hamlet kill attempts.

Rockingham started the set with a seven-point lead and ended it with a seven-point victory (25-18) to move ahead 2-1 in the series.

With the momentum and a one set lead, Rockingham refused to take its foot off the gas.  The Lady Rockets shot ahead to a 4-1 lead this time with Parsons stacking the aces.  It looked as though a hard hit from McDonald was going to end the run, but Taylor made an acrobatic diving dig pushing the ball up toward the net where Jackson intercepted it and slammed it down for another Rockingham point.

McDonald would however end the next two rallies with hard kills and McCormick added a third to cut Rockingham’s lead to 5-4. The two teams stayed neck-and-neck throughout the fourth set with McDonald and Jackson tallying most of the points.

With Rockingham ahead 19-18, errors stymied Hamlet once again resulting in a 6-1 Rockingham run to close out the set and the match.

“I’m proud,” shared Jackson following the match.  “I’m honestly at a loss for words.  We struggled at the start of the season, but I knew they were capable, they just needed to know that they were capable and now they do.”

With the win, No. 4 Rockingham improved to 8-3 on the season and will travel to No. 1 Sandy Grove (10-0) on Monday.  The Lady Rockets lost to Sandy Grove in close sets earlier this season but feels that her team is in a better place to take on the conference leader.

“We have what it takes,” Jackson said of the second-round matchup.  “Now that they are confident in what they can produce on the court, I think they’ll do a lot better.”

Hamlet ends its season with a 7-4 record.

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