ELKTON – East Rockingham swept past Buffalo Gap in three games, 25-14, 25-15, 25-23, on Monday night in the Conference 36 volleyball tournament quarterfinals.
The visiting Bison jumped to a 10-6 lead in the first game, but then it was all East Rock as the Eagles outscored Gap 19-4 to close out the opening game.
“That’s been a problem for us all season,” Gap head coach Elizabeth Ashby said. “When we’ve been able to get ahead, we’ve had trouble managing a lead.”
The second game was close early, but the Eagles used a 5-0 spurt to stretch a two-point lead to a 12-5 margin. The hosts took advantage of a Gap service error, two attack errors, one setting error and a kill by Tehya Hensley to open up the advantage.
East Rock used a 4-0 spurt to double up the Bison. Two kills by Haley Kuehle and a service ace by Victoria Wigley sparked the Eagles to an 18-9 lead. East Rock closed out the game 25-14 to take a 2-0 lead.
The Bison were the beneficiaries of several Eagles hitting errors early in the third game as the visitors held a slim 8-7 lead.
Then a 5-0 run keyed by two kills from Kuehle and two aces by Wigley put the Eagles on top 12-8.
The Eagles increased the margin to 19-12 on an ace from Kristen Snow and a pair of kills by Sarah Kinsey, but the Bison refused to go down without a fight.
Once again, East Rock’s hitting attack went awry as three attack errors, one setting error and an ace by Gap’s Kaylee Mills pulled Gap to within two points, 20-18.
The margin remained two points as a kill by the Eagles’ Kinsey was offset by a block by Gap’s Mills. Kuehle and Gap’s Abby Flint traded kills to keep it a two-point game, 22-20.
An ace by East Rock’s Kuehle and a Gap hitting error made the count 24-20, but a kill by Emily Hanger kept the Bison alive. A service ace by Camille Ashby and an East Rock hitting error pulled Gap to within a single point, but a kill by Kinsey deflected off a Bison block attempt to close out the third game 25-23.
“I’m proud that the girls kept fighting in that third set,” Ashby said. “That’s something they’ve done all year, they fight to the bitter end.”
Ashby led the Bison with eight points and Mills added six. Sierra Clifton led the team in digs with 10, while Mills added six. Ashby paced the Bison with 10 assists and Flint led with seven kills. Clifton added three kills and five blocks on the night.
Despite Monday’s loss, the future looks promising as nearly the entire Bison roster can return next season.
“I keep telling the girls, keep working as a team and stay together and we’ll get ours,” the Gap coach said. “When these girls get their confidence, they’re going to be fine.”