GREENVILLE — After a slow start, the Riverheads High School volleyball team fought back for a hard-earned 20-25, 25-20, 25-21, 25-23 win over Shenandoah District rival Buffalo Gap on Thursday night.
The Bison got an early lead in the first set and held off the home team.
But the Red Pride gradually gained the upper hand in the second set and kept it for most of the rest of the match, despite several hard pushes by the Gap.
“It was an emotional game and Gap came out strong,” said Riverheads head coach Amy Moore. “I give them a lot of credit; they hustled.”
The match turned in the second set as the Gladiators finally pulled ahead 15-13 on a block by junior Autumn Burkholder and an ace serve by sophomore Kale Argenbright.
A nice kill down the line by junior Taia Chandler set up her own ace on the next point as Riverheads went to set point leading 24-17.
The Bison showed resilience, scoring three straight points on a kill and a block by senior Leah Sherrill, and a block by senior EmmaKate Maxwell.
But the deficit proved too large as Riverheads senior Kendyl Argenbright tied the match at one with a kill on set point.
The third set featured long rallies, effective serving by both teams and good defense.
The Gladiators appeared to be cruising to an easier win, leading 17-12 before the Bison rolled off four consecutive points to put the outcome very much in doubt.
Gap got within 18-19, but some clutch serving by Kendyl Argenbright kept Riverheads in the lead.
After an extended rally, Kendyl Argenbright came through with a stunning back row kill to hold off a late Bison challenge.
The drama escalated in the fourth and deciding set as both teams battled to the end.
After Riverheads led early, Buffalo Gap scored seven unanswered points to grab the lead back, inspired by a five-point service run by Sherrill.
Burkholder came to the rescue to stop the streak with a kill and later Kendyl Argenbright tied the set with another kill at 13-all.
The Gladiators edged ahead again and led 19-15 on a kill by Kale Argenbright.
But again, the Bison thundered back, tying the set at 21-all on an ace by Sherrill.
Sophomore Jayden Zimmerman gave Riverheads a 23-21 lead with a kill, but a serve into the net and a ball out of bounds gave the Bison new life at 23-all.
On a close call near the line, Riverheads got the next point and then on match point, senior setter Dayton Moore pushed the ball over Buffalo Gap front line into the open court for the winning point.
“We’re taking little steps,” Moore said. “We are small in numbers, but big in heart.”
The Gladiators only played seven, while nine players found playing time for the Bison.
“I was pleased for us not giving up and for the hard work,” Buffalo Gap head coach Jessi Fitzgerald said. “We are big rivals with Riverheads and I was very proud.”
Dayton Moore had 31 assists and two blocks for the Gladiators, while Kendyl Argenbright led the attack with 16 kills and four blocks and added 13 digs on defense.
Kale Argenbright served three aces and had 10 digs, while Chandler put down eight kills.
Riverheads continues district play with an away match at Fort Defiance and a home match against Staunton next week, while Gap will busy with games against Nelson County, Stuarts Draft and Wilson next week.
Leading the Bison attack were Sherrill and Teagan Via with a dozen kills each. Taylor Via came up with seven blocks and Teagan Via added six more.
Maxwell assisted on 29 Bison points and served seven aces, while sophomore Ella Williams served four aces.
On defense, Caroline Alger came up with 21 digs, while Sherrill and Maxwell each had 13 digs for Gap.