Riverheads volleyball

Nancy Sorrells/For the News Virignian

Riverheads’ Kendyl Argenbright serves the ball in the second game of a Class 1 quarterfinal match against Middlesex on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Greenville. The Gladiators won, 3-0.

GREENVILLE — The Riverheads volleyball redemption tour is closing in on its final destination.

The Gladiators took one more step toward getting back to the state championship match Saturday after a dominating 25-13, 25-11, 25-16 trucking of the Middlesex Chargers in the Class 1 quarterfinals.

Riverheads has been on a mission since last season when it got swept in the title match by Patrick Henry-Glade Spring. The Gladiators need one more victory to reach the finals, and this time they don’t want to come home without the big trophy.

“We want to redeem ourselves,” Riverheads head coach Nyssa Stapleton said. “We want to prove that we are better than what we showed last year.”

The final obstacle that Riverheads (22-3) must clear to reach the championship match at the Salem Civic Center next Saturday entails a long road trip to near the Eastern Shore. The Gladiators have a state semifinal date 6 p.m. Tuesday at Rappahannock, the one located in Warsaw. Rappahannock (24-3), which rallied from a two-set deficit to beat Middlesex for the Region 1A title, earned its crack at Riverheads by taking out Rappahannock County in five sets Saturday in another state quarterfinal. The Gladiators were hopeful Rappahannock County would win, which meant they could have hosted instead of loading up the bus.

Middlesex’s second trip to Riverheads in as many years lasted only 65 minutes. Unlike last season when the Chargers grabbed the first set before losing the next three, the Gladiators put the hammer down from start to finish.

“We wanted to come out and make a statement from the start,” Stapleton said. “We played the game like it’s supposed to be played. We were back in midseason form.”

The Gladiators got off to a shaky start, falling behind 6-2, but that was before Samantha Persinger stepped to the service line. When the senior finally lost serve, Riverheads was in control at 11-6, and the Chargers never recovered. During the game-breaking 9-0 blitz, Persinger had four aces, while Abbey Eavers powered three kills and Sydney Phillips two.

The Gladiators never took their foot off the throttle after that. Leading 10-7 in the second set, Riverheads went on a 7-0 run that ended on back-to-back kills from Kendyl Argenbright and Lauren Reese.

Middlesex (21-3) kept the third set interesting until the Gladiators used a 5-0 spurt, erasing a 12-11 deficit. The Chargers had three hitting miscues, while Gracie Fulton and Phillips recorded kills.

Riverheads closed the sweep out by scoring the final six points, the last four on more Charger errors.

“This was our best postseason match by far,” Stapleton said. “The defense talked all the time and moved in sync.”

Eavers, who finished with 12 kills, four digs, one block and one ace, is ecstatic to be so close to returning to the title match.

“We talked about keeping our positive energy the whole match,” the senior said. “We wanted that strong start and not let them win the first set like last season.

“We had lapses in our last match (Wednesday against Rappahannock County) and didn’t want those to creep back in. None of us wanted that roller coaster again,” Eavers said.

Sophomore Dayton Moore had a strong receiving match with 26 assists, while adding three digs and two kills. Phillips contributed six kills and eight digs.

Riverheads’ season is now down to no more than two matches to see if the redemption tour can achieve a grand finale.

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