Riverside tops Person for PAC-6 lead
Riverside grabbed command of the PAC-6 volleyball race with a 25-10, 25-16, 25-12 rout of Roxboro Person on Tuesday night.
The Pirates improved to 14-1, 4-0 in the PAC-6 while handing the Rockets (7-3, 2-2) their second league loss the season. East Chapel Hill, an earlier Riverside victim, is alone in second at 8-8, 3-1.
East Chapel Hill downed Hillside 25-13, 25-11, 25-8 on Tuesday.
Riverside, which hasn’t lost a set in PAC-6 competition, completes the first half of its double round-robin conference schedule against Northern at home Thursday.
“This was a big win for us since all the other teams in the league have at least one loss,” Riverside coach Mike Hodge said.
Zariya Thomas came up big against Riverside’s traditional volleyball rival Tuesday, as the outside hitter scored 13 kills and four aces — all four of the aces coming among the final six points of the first set.
But she had plenty of help. Yakima Clifton provided punch up the middle with five blocks and four kills, Rachel Kallianos worked hard on the edge to put up eight kills and managed a team-best 11 digs.
“Yakima shut down the middle, and she’s playing through shin splints,” Hodge said as his young star walked to the locker room with ice bags taped to each shin. “We’re trying to keep her healthy.”
Standout middle hitter Moné Jones had a fairly quiet night, scoring on three kills and a pair of blocks in limited playing time. One of the nation’s top college basketball prospects, the 6-3 junior has been spending a lot of time with recruiters of late.
“It’s got to be tough on her,” Hodge said. “I think she’s had eight at-home visits (from college coaches) in the last few weeks, ... and there’s coaches at almost every practice and game she plays.”
Casey Speer, who has moved from being a three-year starter at the defense-only libero slot and switched places with veteran setter Victoria Pearce this season, had 29 assists. Pearce had eight assists and 11 digs in the backcourt.
Hodge said the position switch has given the team a boost this season and helped the Pirates develop excellent team chemistry early on. The fact that both have excellent setting and assist skills is a bonus for the Pirates, he added.
Person, which won the league title four years ago and was PAC-6 champ Riverside’s top rival when the Pirates won the league title in 2010 and 2011, is in rebuilding mode this season, as is 2012 champion Jordan.
“We keep working hard; we’re a very young team,” Person coach Hope Haverly said. “We need to try to move quicker on defense, set up our block better.”
Person’s only major offensive threat Tuesday was Casey Goodman with 10 kills. Nyia Lipscomb was next with three, and Courtney Jackson and Janeesha Graves had two each.
Hannah Blaylock led the Rockets with 16 assists, while Megan Wehrenberg had eight digs and Kaley Evans five.
Haverly, whose other conference loss was to East Chapel Hill, came away impressed by Riverside.
“They’re a very good offensive team,” she said. “Their service return is very stout.”
Hodge, whose Pirates are ranked No. 9 in the state by MaxPreps.com, said the team is playing well but has a lot of room for improvement as it pursues a state title.
“Our goals are to run a lot of stuff, misdirection — and stay aggressive,” Hodge said. “When we’re playing well, we ballhandle well, we pass well. We also have to establish our middles (blocking, execution) and that helps our outside hitters.”
Riverside was the more aggressive offensive team by a wide margin Tuesday. The power spikes by Thomas, Clifton, Kallianos and Jones kept Person on its heels, the Rockets often seeming content just to keep the ball alive and get it back over the net.
Of Riverside’s 75 points, 29 came on Person service or return errors. Riverside committed just 17 errors, but those accounted for 45 percent of Person’s points.