DURHAM — Durham Riverside won its second consecutive volleyball match in a five-set thriller to advance to the quarterfinals of the state volleyball playoffs.
The Pirates defeated Broughton 25-19, 25-17, 19-25, 21-25, 15-11 Thursday night and will play the winner of Wakefield and Millbrook on Saturday.
Riverside (26-1) rallied from a 2-1 deficit against Fuquay-Varina Tuesday night to defeat the Bengals in five sets. This time the Pirates jumped out to the quick lead before holding off a charging Cap squad.
“I don’t like five-set matches,” said Riverside coach Michael Hodge, whose team has won 26 straight games. “I told the players the third set is the most dangerous because it’s the closeout set. Teams will scratch and claw to get a win.”
The two teams battled like heavyweight fighters in the fifth set. Neither squad led by more than two points until the game was tied at 10. Riverside took control with four straight points off two Broughton (21-3-1) errors and two kills by Natalie Liller. After the Caps scored off an error, Riverside outside hitter Zariya Thomas collected her 22nd kill of the night to end the game. Thomas also had 13 digs.
Broughton coach Traci Smith took solace in the fact that her team never gave up.
“I told them to play their game, hold the tempo and keep their poise,” she said. “They weren’t tired physically by the fifth set, but I think they were tired mentally from having to come back. And we had some offensive errors, but I’m proud of them and our season.”
Riverside appeared to have no emotional letdown after its big win over Fuquay, overpowering the Caps in the first two sets. But with the score tied at 10 in the third, Broughton began its comeback behind Kati Smith and Katja Ehlers. The Caps took an 11-10 lead and never relinquished it.
Buoyed by the win, Broughton intensified its defense and Riverside looked confused and out of sync. The Caps rallied from a 21-20 deficit to shut out the Pirates for the 25-21 victory.
Then Riverside’s captains took over the huddle from the coaches.
“We have new players who were a little tense, and we (seniors) had to find a way to stay calm to keep them calm,” said co-captain Casey Speer, who had 45 assists. “It was nerve-wracking and frustrating, but we find a way to win, and that’s what we’re going to keep doing.”