Leesville Road snapped the seven-game win streak of No. 24 seed Athens Drive Saturday afternoon in the first round of the NCHSAA 4A volleyball playoffs with a 3-1 victory (25-19, 25-17, 23-25, 25-23). The Pride picked up its fourth straight victory.
The 9-seed Pride (17-2) didn’t rely on any one player offensively, having four different girls amass at least nine kills in Sarah Gasper, Timara Chapman (10), Sydney Wilson (11) and Meghan Gasper (14).
“Once we started placing the ball and mixing it up, we started to feel more comfortable and were able to control more of the tempo of the game,” Leesville coach Erin Hensler said. “I hope we learned that when we get on top and we have a two-set lead … we need to continue to push and pedal for the medal.”
Leesville got off to a hot start, never trailing for the entirety of set one. Leesville’s offense was firing on all cylinders, recording 17 total kills in the set from six different players.
Athens (13-7) didn’t take its first lead until set three, where they raced out to a 9-4 lead before outlasting Leesville 25-23 largely in part to the offensive play of UNC-Wilmington sand volleyball recruit Raquel Rooney (11 kills).
The Jaguars’ momentum carried over to the fourth set, where they found themselves holding on to a 10-5 advantage early on.
The Pride clawed its way back in, knotting the game up at 18-18 when Madison Phinney kept a loose ball in play while lying on her back, eventually leading to a Wilson kill.
When Rooney’s spike narrowly landed out of bounds minutes later, the Pride clinched their fourth postseason victory since 2013.
“It was one of our best wins as a team, we came together … and executed so well in the end,” Meghan Gasper said.
It was a rough ending to the Jaguars’ “Cinderalla story” run, coming back from a sub-.500 5-7 record to finish regular season at 12-7. The season will be one that third-year Athens coach Emily Smith remembers fondly moving forward.
“This will for sure be a season that stays very close to my heart forever,” she said.
“We overcame so much and demonstrated what heart and teamwork looks like,” Smith said. “I told them to leave everything on the court and give it their best and they surpassed all of my hopes.”
Leesville will look to advance to the third round for the first since 2012 when they hit the road to take on Greenville’s D.H. Conley on Oct. 27.