GREENVILLE — Riverheads started to fine-tune the machine for the approaching postseason Tuesday night as the Gladiators overwhelmed the Buffalo Gap Bison 25-13, 25-14, 25-11 in Shenandoah District volleyball.
The Gladiators didn’t let all the Senior Night extravaganza distract them from the task at hand as they never trailed in any of the sets and were tied just once at 1-1 in the opening set. Riverheads swept a district opponent for the fifth time.
Riverheads used the victory as a good bounce-back from Thursday’s classic five-set heartbreaker to regular-season champion Fort Defiance.
“We didn’t have any hangover from last week,” Riverheads head coach Nyssa Stapleton said. “The five seniors were really motivated to win on their night. I talked to them before the match about the importance of getting focused and playing our game with no outside distractions.”
Riverheads (9-2, 9-2) has locked up the No. 1 seed in Region 1B, and the Gladiators will start regional play at home next Tuesday against either Altavista or Cumberland. If Riverheads wins its semifinal match, it will host the championship on April 15.
“We are ready for the playoffs,” Stapleton said. “I know the regular season is short, but it seems to be lingering as we get closer to the postseason.”
Buffalo Gap (3-8, 1-8) did not qualify for the four-team tournament in Region 2B. The Bison will conclude their season Thursday at home against Staunton.
The Bison were coming off their first district victory last Thursday for first-year head coach Jessi Fitzgerald, which ironically came against her alma mater Wilson Memorial, but Gap couldn’t sustain the momentum.
“That certainly wasn’t the outcome we wanted,” Fitzgerald said. “Riverheads took it to us. I know the girls have it in them to be better, but it didn’t surface tonight.”
Gap took a hit early in the first set when Natalie Robertson re-aggravated a right knee injury and missed the rest of the match, leaving the Bison with only seven players.
“She has been fighting that knee for a couple weeks,” Fitzgerald said. “She has been giving it her all.”
After the 1-1 tie in the first set, the Gladiators opened a 12-5 lead and finished off the win on back-to-back kills by Sydney Phillips.
Phillips opened the second set by serving a pair of aces as the Gladiators surged to an 11-1 advantage on the stretch of an 8-0 run that featured two aces from Taia Chandler. Amelia Tomlinson wrapped up the set with a kill and a block.
Riverheads left no doubt in the third set, scoring the first seven points as Phillips dropped in three more aces. The Gladiators closed out the match on a 6-0 spurt powered by kills from Autumn Burkholder, Tomlinson and Phillips.
For the Gladiators, Dayton Moore had with 34 assists, 10 points and four points. Tomlinson pounded 13 kills, while adding nine digs and five points. Kendyl Argenbright tallied 11 digs, six kills and two blocks.
Katherine Alger topped the Bison with eight kills and 11 digs. Leah Sherrill had 13 digs, Ellee Knight 10, Teagan Via eight and Taylor Via five.
Riverheads has one last tune-up Thursday at Stuarts Draft before getting down to business next week.