ROGERS — The Rogers Lady Eagles and the Academy Lady Bees may not be battling for the District 19-3A title, but they’re still rivals. In the latest installment of the rivalry at Harley Doggett Gymnasium, it was a battle between two teams with eyes on the playoffs.
It was Rogers that prevailed Tuesday night, knocking off Academy 25-21, 25-20, 25-20.
“Being the start of the second round of district, with it being senior night, a big crowd, and Academy a big rivalry, I knew my girls were excited,” Rogers coach Stacy Rogers said. “They were pumped about it.”
The victory was crucial for the Lady Eagles (21-13, 5-3), who entered the night tied for third with McGregor in a tight district race.
“Everyone we beat in the first round, we need to beat them again,” Rogers said. “And it would be nice to get a win against (first-place) Lexington or (second-place) Troy.”
The outcome made a playoff push a steeper climb for the Lady Bees (7-23, 2-6), who are three wins behind Rogers and McGregor for the final playoff spot.
“We’d like to be in control of our own destiny,” Academy coach Elena Queen said. “But unfortunately, this entire district is just a dogfight, especially the bottom five teams that want to get in. We are all pushing, but everybody has kicked it up a notch.”
It was a dogfight all night Tuesday. The Lady Bees scored the opening point in all three sets and never trailed the Lady Eagles by more than three points until the end of the first two games.
Rogers led the opening game 21-20 and closed it out with a 4-1 run, with Sabrina Tuerck recording the final two points with a kill and a block.
It was another 4-1 run at 21-19 in the second set that closed it out for Rogers, with the final point coming at the hands of Hailee Talafuse.
“They have some consistent hitters,” Queen said. “When they get in that rotation with Talafuse and Tuerck in the front row, they are tough. We want to get as many points against them when those two are on the back row.”
The Lady Bees controlled the early part of the final set and led 9-6 behind four blocks by Emily Erwin, who finished the match with six.
But a kill by Jacelyn Chervenka, followed by an ace by Itati Arzola and an Academy hitting error tied the set at 9, before the Lady Bees took the lead on a kill by Aubrey Cosper.
The momentum quickly changed for good on the next point when Arzola kept a long rally going by diving to save two strong attacks by Academy’s Aubrey Fossett, keeping the ball alive long enough for Talafuse to end it with a kill.
“Our defense definitely won it for us,” said Talafuse, who finished with 11 kills. “We’ve struggle letting a lot of balls hit the floor. That didn’t happen much tonight. We made some good saves.”
Her coach agreed.
“This is the best defensive game we’ve played in a long time,” Rogers said.
After the long point tied the set at 10, the Lady Eagles went on a 7-3 run to open up the lead and help them seal the victory.
“Volleyball is a game of momentum,” Rogers said. “It just fires up my girls after winning long rallies. They are more ready and determined for the next one. My hope is we carry that momentum with us on the road our next two games.”
Rogers will be at Franklin on Friday when Academy, which was led by Fossett’s 11 kills, hosts Lexington.