By Jeffery Armstrong
The Riverdale Lady Raiders and the Lovejoy Lady Wildcats volleyball teams made the long trip to Locust Grove Tuesday evening to take on new Luella High School and they both came away with good results.
Riverdale had the better night, sweeping the Lady Wildcats and the Lady Lions of Luella to start its season at 2-0.
Riverdale and Lovejoy were late to the tri-match because of transportation problems, but the Lady Raiders didn't let that stop them from winning both matches. Riverdale swept Lovejoy 25-18, 25-23 and then swept Luella 25-13, 25-11.
This year, the Georgia High School Association has allowed rally scoring for high school volleyball teams across the state. Teams now have to score 25 points to win a game and matches are now the best-of-five; if matches are tied at two games apiece, the deciding game five will go to 15 points.
Tuesday's games were held to the best-of-three since the Clayton teams arrived so late to Luella.
"It feels good to win our first two matches of the year," said second-year Riverdale head coach Rod Lambert. "We're not even at full strength yet. I really feel we should be competitive this year."
The Lady Raiders sprinted to a 10-5 lead in game one against Lovejoy. Lovejoy battled back to get within four at 15-11, but that's when Riverdale's Marsha Smith took over the game. Smith and Kelly Allen blocked a Lovejoy shot for a point and then Smith had two service aces for a 19-12 lead.
Smith then made the play of the game to push the lead to 20-12. She served the ball and then had to make an athletic play to receive the return and make a sweet kill shot. Riverdale rode the momentum from that play to win the game 25-18.
Riverdale took the early lead in game two, but Lovejoy climbed back in the lead, thanks to three straight service aces by Carmen Turner for a 12-9 score. Lovejoy later led 19-15 but Riverdale's Krystal Allen had four straight service aces to tie the game at 19.
Lovejoy took a 23-20 lead minutes later, but a service ace from Riverdale's Kiki Frank tied the game at 23 and the Lady Raiders scored the next two points to win the match.
In the first match of the day, Lovejoy defeated Luella in front of several loud fans 25-15 in game one, thanks to great play from Natalie George and Tina Williams. Game two wasn't as easy, as Luella thrilled the home fans by taking leads of 14-11, 19-13 and 23-18 against Lovejoy. But to the Lady Wildcats' credit and also with great play from Williams, they battled back and won the match 27-25 to go to 1-1 on the season.
"I think this was a great learning experience for us with rally scoring. We came out good in the first match, but we let down a little in the second match," said Lovejoy head coach Laura Granger. "We made some mistakes but we'll work on those in practice."