By Thomas Grant Jr.

The first set of the latest volleyball matchup between Lexington and River Bluff started Thursday in typical fashion in “The Swamp”.

The Lady Wildcats and Lady Gators went back and forth with an array of strikes, blocks, and kills. There were several lead changes and both fan bases were expecting another close battle.

After prevailing in the first set 25-23, Lexington proceeded to take control of the match. It would win the next two sets comfortably over River Bluff by scores of 25-16, 25-17 to claim the victory.

In avenging a two-set loss to the Lady Gators on Aug. 19, the Lady Wildcats (19-5-1, 2-0) also claimed sole possession of first place in Region 4-5A.

I think after the first set, we calmed down a little bit,” Lexington head coach Eric Shick said. “Coming over here, it’s a tough atmosphere to play in. It’s rivals. We pushed through. We didn’t play great that first set and they made some unforced errors. But after that first set, they relaxed a little bit and got into a groove.”

Lexington used its length and height with great effectiveness to create a “wall” at the net. With 6-foot 1 hitters Emily DiRienzo and Kaitlyn Cannon knocking down shots at the net, setter Sydney Fischer having success with her serve and teammates setting up 5-11 junior Jazlyn Snow for spikes, Shick said this year’s group has more offensive power and cover more space defensively.

While a region title is a priority, Lexington’s immediate focus is preparing for another state title run. Having scheduled several non-region matches earlier in the season, Shick has Lexington participating in tournaments at Dorman next weekend and at home on Sept. 30 with the goal of claiming that elusive Class 5A title.

“I’m giving them the best competition I can to put them under pressure so that they know how to deal with pressure when it comes down to the end,” Shick said.

Lexington faced White Knoll on Tuesday, while. River Bluff returns to action Sept. 21 at Dutch Fork.

Featured Photo:  Lexington head coach Eric Shick with his team during a timeout.