Emily Roberts says she is usually a little “off and on” when she puts in serious time in the front court blocking for East Hall.
Thank goodness she was back on when it mattered.
The Lady Vikings (44-14) are now 2 for 2 in home state playoff matches, having decisively swept their second round opponent Kendrick 25-14, 25-12, 25-21 Tuesday night on their home court. East Hall advances to the state quarterfinals on Sat. Oct. 25. The opponent, location and time is yet to be determined.
“I was used to being in the back court,” Roberts said with a broad grin on her face. “But coach (Ted Deppe) wanted me in a few rotations up there and it worked out for the best.”
The senior had a breakout match for East Hall, collecting four blocks, seven kills and two digs en route to the straight sets rout.
After coming back from two sets down to defeat first round opponent Ringgold last week, Deppe’s team engineered a much more comfortable win in front of a raucous home crowd. Outside hitter Allyson Segars (15 kills, nine digs) rattled off four straight service points before giving East Hall its first three-point lead of the night when her vicious spike hit the far baseline.
A minute later, Segars’ dig kept alive an extended play before Roberts converted on the opposite end for a 16-10 advantage.
Kendrick senior Melia Jones (eight service points, five blocks) was the only factor that kept the Cherokees in striking distance, but even she couldn’t help when Angela Jones and Destiny Murph ran into each other on a return that would stretch East Hall’s lead to eight.
Ashleigh Burnett (two aces, five kills, eight digs) ended the first set when her serve two points later was too hot for Murph to handle.
Kendrick coach Sterling Hicks said the Lady Vikings defense was just too stout for his hitters, who had to travel three hours from Columbus to arrive at East Hall on time.
“Being tired, that’s not our excuse,” Hicks said. “They just had the urgency, the fire to win. Their defense was great, we just couldn’t match that.”
East Hall continued to use Roberts in front of the net to cancel out Jones’ blocking, but even Jones couldn’t defend a rally where the Lady Vikings scored seven of eight points to earn a 10-5 lead.
East Hall found holes throughout Kendrick’s front line all night. Roberts’ cross-court shot midway through the second set gave the Lady Vikings an unassailable lead and much of the game’s momentum heading into a Cherokee timeout.
“We put her up there for her presence on the net, to hopefully get in their heads and get in their face, because they’re a very, very aggressive team,” Deppe said. “We knew they were going to be an unorthodox team and swing at everything. We practiced to defend them and hit through the blocks. Our practices paid off.”
East Hall won the final four points of the second set with libero Savannah Lindsey (19 digs, 1 ace) serving after Segars’ spike stretched the lead to 11 at one point.
The momentum carried East Hall well into the final set, which was highlighted by Roberts’ phenomenal double block at the net before her near-court shot finished off a long rally.
Raven Baker’s skilled hit from five yards out cut the Vikings lead to one at 7-6, but East Hall smelled blood in the water.
Segars and Roberts combined for East Hall to carve out a six-point lead late in the third set. By the time Jones hit a return into the net to give East Hall its final point, the Vikings’ bench was already celebrating a comfortable win.
How long can East Hall maintain this unprecedented run of form?
“As long as it takes,” Roberts said. “We’re doing great right now, though.”
“It’s the biggest win in program history,” said Deppe, surrounded by a crowd of satisfied East Hall fans. “This is what we work for all season.”