Matches between Rocky Mount High and Northern Nash usually mean tons of energy, tons of noise and a close, five-set affair.
With the Gryphons minus their best player from 2011 due to graduation and the Knights the favorite to repeat as Big East Conference regular season champions, the rivalry figured to grow one-sided.
It was one-sided Tuesday at Northern Nash High School. Just the totally opposite way.
The Gryphons thoroughly dominated the Knights, taking control of the match early in the first set and never losing control in a 3-0 victory.
“The intensity was there from the get-go for us,” Rocky Mount senior Sakeya Battle said. “We started turned up and we stayed that way.”
Rocky Mount (5-5, 3-2 Big East) was disciplined all match against the Knights (8-6, 2-3), who never recovered from the Gryphons’ surge of energy.
Northern Nash was scrambling all afternoon. Runs of three or four straight points were always paired with another period in which its communication and aggressiveness became nonexistent.
“This is totally not what I expected out of our team,” Northern Nash coach Patricia Haggerty said. “I told them that when we play Rocky Mount, Rocky Mount is going to come with their ‘A’ game, and they’re going to play their best. And I know (Tuesday) was the best they’ve played all year long.”
After seeing a rejuvenated Gryphons squad, it was difficult to disagree with the sentiment.
A 7-0 run in the first set gave Rocky Mount a comfortable lead, which Battle later cemented with a kill to win the set, 25-18.
The Knights built a 6-1 lead to start the second set, but Rocky Mount went on a 5-0 run to immediately tie the game. Later in the set, Rocky Mount went on a 6-0 run to build another comfortable lead, which they held.
The Gryphons’ intensity never ceased at any point.
“I really don’t know what they did,” Rocky Mount coach Tabitha Wilcox said. “I don’t know if they had sugar before the game, or it was the tornado warning outside, but they were so excited to play this game.”
The third set was marked by another big run for the Gryphons. Holding an 18-17 lead, Rocky Mount went on a 7-1 dash – capped by two Battle aces – to win the match convincingly.
Haggerty called a timeout in every set, she tried lineup changes and she emphasized the Knights’ focus, but Northern Nash never found its way back into contention.
“I told them after the first game that Rocky Mount just wants this more than you do,” Haggerty said. “We got a little better in the second and third games, but nothing seemed to click.”
The Knights have now lost to each of their top three competitors in the first five-leg stretch of the season, with another five-game session to play.
The Gryphons have their high point of 2012 so far. Rocky Mount’s task now is to find a way to keep its newfound form.
“I think once we get that snowball going, it can go one way or the other,” Wilcox said. “We either have the momentum and continue pushing forward, or it ends up being that negative snowball and we continue falling apart.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz@ rmtelegram.com