October 16th, 2018

Rockets roll through Valkyries into 7th Region title

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Paul Najjar

Senior Writer

Rockets roll through Valkyries into 7th Region title
Assumption senior setter Camille Nazor talks strategy with head coach Ron Kordes (file photo)

The state and nation’s No. 1-ranked Assumption Rockets volleyball team needed just an hour and six minutes to dispatch the No. 3-ranked Sacred Heart Valkyries 25-17, 25-15, 25-8 in a 7th Region semifinal match Tuesday night at Valley High School’s J.C. Cantrell Gymnasium.

Though the Valkyries played inspired defense in the first two sets, the Rockets overwhelmed them with a crisp offense, precise passing and a solid 39 assists from senior setter Camille Nazor.

The offense featured 6-foot-3 middle blocker Rylee Rader pounding quick set after quick set and 5-foot-10 outside hitter Anna DeBeer bombing away from the outside to combine for 31 kills.

Rader (18 kills, 5 blocks) was a commanding presence in the middle of the Assumption offense and proved to be difficult to contain all night.

“I threatened Camille with her life,” joked Assumption head coach Ron Kordes of the stellar performance from his setter/middle blocker combo. “We have so many good players and setters like to spread the ball around, but when you find somebody that’s scoring (then) you make the other team stop that.”

Nazor took her coach’s directive to heart and fed the hot hand.

The Nazor-Rader connection was lethal from opening serve. Rader put away three quick sets out of the middle and added a stuff block to score four of Assumption’s first five points of the match. That sent a clear message to the Valkyries defense that it was going to be tough to stop her.

“After the Mercy game (a 3-2 Assumption win two weeks ago) we reevaluated everything we were doing,” Nazor said. “Our strength for in-state games is in the middle and we worked on it and it finally clicked. I’m just throwing up the ball for her and she takes care of finishing.”

Nearly unblockable throughout the match, Rader did get dug several times by the scrappy, solid Sacred Heart defense, but Nazor stayed committed to the tall junior and it paid off.

“We definitely had to stay patient because Sacred Heart is a great defensive team,” Nazor said. “But we stayed focused on our side of the net rather than what was happening on their side of the net. We stuck to doing what we know. If Rylee got dug then we could go out to the pins and back to her in the middle during those long rallies.”

From Rader’s perspective: “In the past, Camille and I had trouble connecting with set position and timing. We’ve focused so hard in practice on getting our timing right and tonight we had a great feel for what we wanted to do. She put up some great sets for me and the entire team and she put it up high enough for me to hit over their blocks. Patience is a key and I know Anna (Burke, SHA’s libero) is so quick back there and reads shots so well. But we kept focusing on what worked for us.”

Assumption, now 38-0 and on a 52-game win-streak, got sturdy play from its backline led by senior libero and Texas A&M commit Karly Basham.

“The Mercy game two weeks ago was a bit of a wake-up call for us,” Basham said. “We got distracted in that game, but tonight our mindset was sharp and we were all focused on what we had to do. We learned from that Mercy game and were prepared to give 100 percent effort on every shot. We’re working hard on communication and letting our hitters know where to go as well as talking with each other to cover as much area as we can.”

Covering a lot of area at the net was Rader and her long reach. And though SHA’s impressive freshman Tess Schrenger notched 10 kills, Rader, DeBeer, Nazor, Emma Monks, Callie Martin and Mary Ann O’Toole were resolute in their blocking assignments.

The Valkyries finished their season 27-10 and said farewell to nine seniors.

“It was a great season and I loved the team this year,” Sacred Heart senior Olivia Fogo said. “We lost a few big players from last year’s team, but we were a tight-knit, together team. We were right there with them in the first two sets and worked hard to slow them down. It was a big effort from everyone. The seniors are like a second family to me because we spend so much time together and we know each other so well. It was an amazing experience and we’ll miss each other.”

For Assumption, getting production from their second rotation has been critical in recent weeks. While Martin finished with just four kills, she added two blocks and back-to-back-to-back aces late in the third set. O’Toole added eight kills and Monks four kills and a block.

The Rockets will face No. 9-ranked Manual (29-10) in the 7th Region title game on Thursday at Valley H.S. at 6:00 p.m. The Crimsons defeated rival No. 7-ranked Male in four sets in the other semifinal. 


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