Randi Moore was a little fired up.
The Gainesville High volleyball coach said it was the smartest she’s seen her top-seeded Lady Red Elephants play all season following a 3-0 sweep of four-seed River Ridge on Thursday in Gainesville, a contested opening-round playoff match from start to finish.
The Lady Red Elephants fed off the veteran wits of senior Savannah Roys and the crowd-pleasing power game of junior hitter Kenley Jordan to fend off the Knights (25-18, 25-18, 25-19) in a best-of-five format.
Jordan fired a team-high 19 kills for Gainesville (28-11), which is now through to the Sweet 16 for the third-consecutive year. Roys finished with 12 kills, 18 assists and seven digs. Camille Holcomb (20 assists), Isabella Appling (three aces, 10 digs) and Anna Wylie (five kills) were others to produce.
“That was fun,” smiled Moore. ...“This was the best night we’ve played as a team where we play smart — the smartest these girls have ever played. We proved a point with a clean sweep, and that’s exactly what we came out to do.”
The Red Elephants play No. 3 Pope, which upset No. 2 seed Douglas County in straight sets, next Wednesday at home.
River Ridge (17-28) took Gainesville out of its comfort zone temporarily to take an early lead, and reintroduced the Red Elephants to the fast-paced postseason stage complete with extensive rallies and bouts of scoring runs. A pair of service errors put Gainesville in a 6-2 hole to start, though the hosts quickly regained ground. Jordan recorded her first four kills and Gainesville surged back ahead on a 10-1 run.
A 26-shot rally capped with a kill by Ashley Hessman kickstarted a 4-0 run to bring the Knights within three points and force a Gainesville timeout at 19-16. A reactive call by the back line judge at 20-16 awarded Gainesville the point and momentum to pull away on a 6-2 run.
And despite having little separation in the final two sets, the Red Elephants played off the unforced errors of their opponent all while finding the gaps in their attack.
Moore applauded Roys for showing her knack for finding those holes during that span.
“It’s mature, it’s good volleyball and it’s exactly a testament to what we want our older players to do at this point in the game,” Moore said of Roys. “She finished it in the third set for us. ..Was very impressed with the ball smarts and the handling.”
The senior helped put the match away in the latter stage of the final set with a block and four cross court kills, her final ending the match and igniting the home crowd.