Left to right: Claire Clark and Chance Crowder (both from Rockingham), and Kenley Smith (8), ZyRihanna Robinson (10) and Lillian Hill (4) from Ellerbe. (Deon Cranford)

Rockets fall on the road during the season opener

The defensive performance of the Rockingham Middle football team was one of the highlights of last week’s jamboree held at Spring Hill Middle School. That defensive intensity continued in their opener against the Blenheim Middle School of Discovery Eagles.

Despite the efforts of the Rocket’s stingy defense, Rockingham fell short in a contested 14-8 road loss at Marlboro County High School.

The Rockets invaded the backfield, resulting in several lost yardage plays and a fumble recovered by CJ Covington, but the offense struggled to get off the ground. Chance Crowder, who was expected to carry much of the weight on offense, unofficially rushed eight times for 40 yards and caught a pass from quarterback Gabe Clark for Rockingham’s only touchdown of the game.

The difference was a special teams score for Blenheim as both teams from each side reached the end zone once in attack.

Rockingham will be in action again next Wednesday when they host the McColl Red Devils. Kick-off scheduled for 4 p.m.

Rockingham head football coach Zach Freeman provided information on the game.

Ellerbe volleyball remains undefeated

A season ago, Ellerbe Middle’s volleyball team was winless. This season, only two of the ten teams in the Southeastern Middle School Athletic Conference are still undefeated after just two weeks of play, and Ellerbe is one of them.

The Lady Wildcats improved to 4-0 after an intense five-set (25-15, 23-25, 25-19, 23-25, 15-7) road win over Anson Orange on Thursday.

It was the third time in just four matches that Ellerbe had to win a decisive game to claim victory, but the Lady Wildcats have been under pressure all season, and Thursday’s game was no exception.

Once again, Ellerbe’s serve seemed to make the difference. In the first set, four aces from team captain Kenley Smith and another from Abby Robinson contributed to a 9-2 series. The Lady Wildcats took the lead for a 10-point one-set win.

A pair of aces from Lillian Hill helped the Lady Wildcats take the lead early in the second set, but both teams followed with multiple typing errors. Anson was able to make the adjustments quicker and the home side managed to pull off a 25-23 win to tie the series at 1 apiece.

Smith and Kaylee Connor booked three sets with a pair of points. Smith started the period with six straight aces. Later, with his team trailing 19-18, Connor chained six service points (two aces) to end the set with a 25-19 win and a 2-1 series lead.

Anson took an early lead in the fourth set. Despite a valiant rally attempt, the Lady Wildcats missed by two runs forcing a fifth set.

Smith contributed two aces to a 4-0 run to start the fifth set but the Lady Wildcats had to watch as the lead was quickly erased by Anson forcing Ellerbe coach Jonathan Chavez to call a timeout with the score tied 4-4. Chavez occasionally addressed silly mistakes, movement and communication during the match, but as he often does, he credited his team captain for motivating the team during the five-set break.

“We have to hold our heads up high,” Smith told his team in the huddle. “We have to trust each other to win.”

With the game tied at 5-5, Alisson González Santiago delivered several hard-to-manage serves, helping his side take a 12-5 lead. Then, with the Lady Wildcats ahead 13-7, Connor earned the last service points for the 15-7 win.

Ellerbe Middle (4-0) will return to Anson Middle on Monday to take on Anson Blue.

Ellerbe’s head coach Jonathan Chavez provided some insight into the game.

Rockingham volleyball wins again

Following Rockingham Middle’s volleyball win over West Hoke on Wednesday, first-year head coach Wandesha Jackson credited the improvements as the main reason his side earned their first victory of the season. However, serving was pretty much all his side did in their Thursday game against East Hoke.

Rockingham won a seemingly balanced opening set by seven points, but managed to earn 37 service points in sets two and three to earn their second straight 3-0 win. The Lady Rockets won by scores of 25-18, 25-9 and 25-4.

“The girls started off slow, but worked collectively to regain their energy on the court and finish strong,” Jackson explained. “Serving was definitely key tonight and we saw a lot of consistency.”

Rockingham (2-1) next host the Carver Middle School Lady Eagles on Monday.

Cordoba falls on the road

Prior to the start of Cordova’s game at West Hoke, coach April Stewart expressed concerns about the height and obstructions around the ceiling of the West Hoke gymnasium. His concern was that low lighting, light fixtures, air conditioning equipment and practice basketball goals were going to be a problem for his Lady Cavaliers who usually serve high.

In the first set, Cordova struggled with the adjustment, resulting in seven service errors and three other errors on rallies caused by the ball hitting the low hanging fixtures. West Hoke took advantage of errors taking the first set 25-12.

The Lady Cavaliers started the second set with a 7-0 streak including four aces from Aliah West. West Hoke managed to cut their deficit to two, but Cordova went on a 6-2 run aided by a kill from West, an ace from Yazmin Gomez, pocket aces from Lizzie Lunceford and an impressive kill from Madison Hancock that she pushed after the ball deflected off one of the low hanging obstacles.

The two traded points for a while before Cordova finished the set on a 4-2 run. Hancock racked up three service points (two aces) on the run and Lunceford closed it with a kill for the 25-17 victory.

Serving errors continued to thwart Cordova in the third set, leading to a 25-16 loss. Cordova tried to bounce back in a very competitive set four, but failed 26-24.

The Lady Cavaliers (1-2) return home on Monday when they host East Hoke.