NORTH EAST — In spite of being separated by less than 10 miles, the Rising Sun and North East volleyball teams were seeing each other for the first time this season in Wednesday afternoon’s 2A East Region I championship game.
The Tigers used the unknown to their advantage to sweep the Indians three sets to none, winning the Region I crown and advancing to the class 2A state quarterfinals.
“I reminded the girls today that they had to think of this as the next step to states,” Tigers head coach Rich Wilson said. “It’s not like the regular season where you get a game next week. You have to set your focus and play a consistent, steady pace, which is what they did tonight.
“We expected competition as we do with most teams,” said libero Rachel Cohen, who collected six aces and five digs in the match. “No matter what, we just try our hardest.”
The Tigers (now 13-2 in 2019) came out of the gate aggressive, taking the first set 25-6, then rolling a 25-3 win the second set. North East made things interesting in set three, but Rising Sun took control of that set as well to cap the sweep 25-10.
Emily Jackson led Rising Sun with eight aces and 19 assists and Sophie Eckerd had 12 kills
The Tigers will move in the 2A quarterfinals, where they’ll play an opponent to be determined after the eight region winners are reseeded. With that in mind, Wilson knows what it’ll take for Rising Sun to continue their playoff run, regardless of opponent.
“There’s a lot of good teams at this point,” Wilson said. “Until we see who we’re up against, we’ve gotta play hard, serve well and pass well. The hitting will take care of itself if we do those things.”
“We focus on one set at a time, but there is pressure on us,” Cohen added. “It can be a lot, but overall it’s a very fun experience.”
Fun experiences will likely by what first-year Indians coach Hannah O’Brien takes from the 2019 season. Inheriting a team that won just three matches the year prior, North East finished this season 10-7 and region finalists, and O’Brien feels the best is yet to come.
“Overall, this was a much more positive season,” O’Brien said. “We definitely made progress and we have a lot to look forward to next season. Being in the lower division, we didn’t get to see Rising Sun and this fast pace, so hopefully the girls will get used to it next season.”