The Hillcrest Rams spotted Rock Hill a 1-0 lead and roared back to earn a 3-1 win over the Bearcats in the first round of the 5A volleyball playoffs on Thursday night at Rock Hill High School.
The Bearats turned in a solid performance in the first set of the match and took a 25-19 decision. When Maylen Mitrovich scored on a kill, the ‘Cats had an early 8-2 lead. Hillcrest regrouped and cut it to 10-9, but then Rock Hill countered: A 7-1 rally gave the Bearcats a 17-10 cushion — Kate Partlow notching the kill that was the final point in the spurt.
Hillcrest came back to cut the deficit to 19-16 when Sarah MacLean scored on a kill. Rock Hill got kills from Jada Rouse and Meagan O’Rourke and it was 21-16. Hillcrest battled back to cut it to 23-19, but Rock Hill scored the next two points for a 25-19 win and a 1-0 lead.
The second set was back and forth and featured nine ties, with last one being 12-12. Hillcrest scored five straight points for a 17-12 advantage. The Bearcats battled back for the remainder of the second set. When Mitrovich got back-to-back kills the Hillcrest lead was only 22-19.
After an exchange of points, Rock Hill got another Mitrovich kill and a perfectly-executed drop shot from Aydan Espinol to cut it to 23-22. MacLean, though, earned the Rams’ final two points on kills for a 25-23 win, and the match was tied at 1-1.
Hillcrest stormed to a quick 6-1 lead in the third set, and gradually increased it to 15-6. MacLean and Natalie Sipple spearheaded the Hillcrest attack the rest of the way. The closest Rock Hill would get for the remainder of the third set was seven points. When it was over, Hillcrest had a 25-15 win and a 2-1 edge in games.
Game four was more of the same. The Rams used solid play from MacLean and Taylor Bielek to establish a 7-2 lead. They padded their advantage with a 7-4 run for a 14-6 lead. Bielek got five of the Hillcrest points in the spree.
Rock Hill stayed in the match until the score reached 17-10. The Rams went on a 5-0 run, which featured three more points from Bielek, and the advantage was 22-10. The teams played even the rest of the way, and Hillcrest got a 25-13 victory in game four to secure the win and move to the next round.
The loss ended Rock Hill’s season with a record of 22-12-1, and after the match, veteran head coach Cindy Elder reflected on the year.
“We were a very young team,” Elder said. “We worked hard all year, showed tremendous amounts of improvement, and finished second in the region in the regular season.”
Elder added: “At times tonight we had four sophomores on the floor. I was proud of our accomplishments, and with only two seniors on the roster this season, the future looks very bright for us.”