Bulldogs blast Oxford Prep, host top-ranked Firebirds tonight

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It took a shade over 30 minutes for the Roxboro Community School volleyball team to dispense of Oxford Prep — officially look square ahead at a showdown with the top-ranked team in 1A.

The Bulldogs laid waste to Oxford Prep 3-0 (25-6, 25- 12, 25-5) Monday at home to set up a huge matchup tonight with Falls Lake Academy. Both teams head into tonight’s game undefeated in North Central Athletic Conference play, with the Firebirds currently at 9-1 with their only loss coming to 3A state finalist Chapel Hill.

RCS (9-4) has ripped off seven wins in a row, including a five-set thriller at Vance Charter last Wednesday. Bulldog coach Katie DeVillier saw growth from her young team with eight underclassmen in Wednesday’s come-from-behind victory on the road.

“It was good to see that early because they needed to see how every team we plays brings their A-game to us,” DeVillier said. “They have to bring their A-game and not bring an off game. It was an off day, but in the end they were able to pull through and show that this is still our conference.”

The Bulldogs will be facing their most serious threat to its North Central Athletic Conference dominance. RCS has maintained a stranglehold on the conference since its inception in 2014, winning four consecutive titles and holding a 66-1 record in league games.

The Firebirds will invade as the top-ranked team in 1A according to MaxPreps and will be looking to avenge their four losses to RCS last year, in- cluding a sweep in the 1A East regional finals.

They returned everyone from last year’s team including sand volleyball dynamos Chase Teal, Lauren Montren, Gracey Sammons and Macey Sammons.

“They’re hungry,” DeVillier said. “ They’ve been hungry for a few years now. They’re the smart, scrappy kids who find the shots and adjust to what’s on our side of the court. It will be a very, very big game. I think the girls put as much stress on this as they do the Person games. It could go either way depending upon what they bring and what we bring.”

The Bulldogs have been plagued with injuries this season, but may be getting some good news. Senior outside hitter Kenley Long has been out since the opening week of the season with tendonitis in her right shoulder but may be released today. DeVillier indicated that Long could be play tonight, primarily as a middle blocker.

Middle hitter Brenna Winstead has missed the last couple of matches with an injured foot and her status is unknown for tonight. DeVillier said that how she looks in warmups will determine her playing time.

If either or neither is able to go, sophomore Madison Dunkley will likely slide over to the middle. Dunkley delivered three kills and four blocks in Monday’s win.

“Injuries stink, but they’re handling it very well and filling in whatever holes we need,” DeVillier said. “Whatever position we throw them in, especially Madison, who went from right side to middle. She’s thriving and the rest of them are giving me 100-percent when they’re on the court.”

Monday’s tune-up with Oxford Prep lasted just a shade over 30 minutes. The Bulldogs used a dominant serving performance, led by Grace Hawkins, to run away with big leads in each set. Hawkins finished with a team-high eight aces to go along with two kills and 10 assists on her 15th birthday. Payton Gentry hammered home eight kills with three aces, while freshman Maci Clark had a strong outing with six kills.

Emma Schumacher finished with four kills and four aces, while Karter Hawkins came off the bench and chipped in three kills. Freshman libero Kelcey Mangum hammered three aces and added seven digs, while Kayleigh Gentry added three aces, two kills and 13 assists. Morgan Winstead finished with three digs, while Ashton Evans came off the bench add pounded an ace.

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