If opening day of the Southeastern Middle School Athletic Conference (SEMSAC) volleyball season foreshadowed the season ahead, area coaches, students, and spectators are in for an intense couple of months.
The four Richmond County schools joined the two Anson County schools in three of the most balanced matches you could ever hope to witness.
Ellerbe Middle and Cordova Middle both earned home victories over Rockingham Middle and Anson Orange, respectively. Hamlet won its match on the road against Anson Blue.
All three matches required five sets to determine a winner. Twelve of those 15 sets were decided by five points or less and four of those required extra points in order for the winning team to win by the required two points.
Rockingham at Ellerbe
The very first matchup at last week’s volleyball scrimmage at Sandy Grove featured Rockingham Middle and Ellerbe Middle. From the start, the Lady Wildcats seemed to hold their own against the always tough Lady Rockets.
That confidence seemed to carry over into Ellerbe’s season opener against Rockingham on Monday. The Lady Wildcats shook off a slow start to win the match in five sets by scores of 25-27, 15-25, 25-21, 25-22 and 15-12.
Ellerbe’s confidence was tested early. The Lady Wildcats watched a 16-11 first-set lead disappear at the hands of Rockingham’s Madisen Jackson. Following a Lady Rocket timeout, Jackson recorded a hard kill followed by three consecutive aces. The two teams stayed neck and neck until Ellerbe was able to string together four straight points with Abby Robinson serving.
Ahead 24-21 and needing only one point to claim the opening set, the Lady Wildcats put two hits into the ceiling allowing the Lady Rockets to get right back into it and hand Ellerbe a tough 27-25 loss. Rockingham followed that up with a 10-point win in the second match giving the appearance that the Lady Rockets were going to leave Ellerbe with a victory.
The two teams were plagued with serving errors with many hits finding the net and hard hits missing the inbound area entirely. Robinson and teammate Kenley Smith managed to string together serving points on multiple occasions. As the Lady Wildcats began to win the serving battle, the momentum switched to Ellerbe. The Lady Wildcats’ serving, combined with winning several long rallies, led to victories in the next three sets and the match.
Rockingham (0-1) will be open on Thursday. Ellerbe (1-0) will welcome Cordova (1-0) on Thursday.
Anson Orange at Cordova
Cordova Middle hosted the Orange team from Anson Middle in its season opener on Monday. The Lady Cavaliers won the day 3-2 with set scores of 25-21, 27-29, 25-19, 24-26 and 15-11.
Cordova had an opportunity to move ahead 2-0 in the match, but a few serving blunders allowed Anson to steal a 29-27 win and even the series at 1-1.
Cordova started the third set claiming the first four points, but Anson Orange slowly ate away at the lead and managed to knot it up at 12-12. The two teams traded points until Cordova’s Aliah West took over.
West recorded kills on three of the next four rallies and later finished off the set with a trio of aces to help give the Lady Cavaliers a 25-19 set three victory and moved Cordova ahead 2-1 in the series.
Serving stymied the Lady Cavaliers in set four. Cordova would lead by as many as four on three separate occasions during the set only to have serving errors open the door for Anson Orange to make a comeback forcing a tie-breaker set.
In the fifth, Madison Hancock and Lizzie Lunceford made some acrobatic digs to keep rallies going and Hailey Belk excited fans with a hard kill that seemed to surprise even her. Anna Hinson managed to string together four serving points and Anson Orange was forced to take a timeout down 8-1.
Anson would win four straight points following the timeout, but Abigail Huckabee, who kept spectators entertained throughout the entire match with her jovial spirit, won the ball back with a hard hit that clipped the top of the net and bounced out of reach of the Anson players.
Ahead 14-11, Lunceford served the ball and West deflected Anson’s return attempt. The ball came right back to Lunceford whose return was too difficult to for Anson Orange to manage and the Lady Cavaliers erupted into celebration.
Cordova (1-0) will travel to Ellerbe (1-0) on Thursday. Anson Orange (0-1) will travel to Hamlet (1-0) on Thursday.
Hamlet at Anson Blue
Hamlet was the only Richmond County middle school team that had to open its season on the road. The Lady Red Rams won the day with set scores of 25-20, 22-25, 25-20, 17-25 and 16-14.
No details were reported at the time of publication.
Hamlet (1-0) will host Anson Orange (0-1) on Thursday.
Note: Scooter McDonald, Lauren Brewer and Mary Catherine Moree contributed to this article.