Another "classic" matchup took place Tuesday night in The Swamp.
Instead of the gridiron, the combatants battled for two hours on the hardwood. This time, more than bragging rights were at stake as arch rivals Lexington and River Bluff looked to get an early edge on the Region 5-5A title race.
Different field of play, same outcome for the host team. River Bluff came out victorious in 5 sets (19-25, 25-21, 25-23, 14-25, 8-15) in the first step of its quest to dethrone the 2-time defending region champions.
The Lady Gators (30-7, 4-0)had an early 12-9 lead in the first set. After rallying to tie it at 14-14, the Lady Wildcats took control in winning 11 of the final 16 points to take a 1-0 lead.
"That first set, we didn't play horrible," River Bluff head coach Bryan Piro said. "We were doing everything that we strategized for the last week in practice. So we were able to position ourselves defensively. It was just our mistakes. We had a lot of net calls and then we missed 3-4 serves in the first set."
River Bluff had to fight hard to win the next two sets. It fell behind and trailed as many as four points before coming back to take six of the last eight points to even the match.
The third set appeared as though the Lady Gators had asserted control. They led as many as seven points before Lexington stormed back behind the strong serving of senior Layla Sarvis.
"She is a phenomenal player and she is a tough kid to beat," Piro said. "And so, she's got a great serve and we just didn't execute."
Her overpowering serves enabled Lexington to get within a point. River Bluff managed to score off Sarvis and closed out the fourth set.
Lexington overwhelmed River Bluff in the fourth set and looked to carry the momentum over into the fifth. Instead, the Lady Gators regrouped and quickly jumped out to a 9-2 advantage.
The Lady Wildcats made one last effort, but River Bluff close out the match with an ace off the Lexington player for the victory.
"We are a 5-set team," Piro said. "We conditioned over the summer. We condition during the season. We work out on gamedays at school. We are well-conditioned, so our kids don't get as tired."
Despite the win, Piro and the Lady Gators know winning the Oct. 17 rematch is the only way to insure a region title.
"We try to get better every day," Piro said. "That's our motto. We get better each day. We get better today, we can get better tomorrow."
"I'm proud of the girls," said Lexington head coach Eric Shick, who was announced after the match as a coach in the S.C Athletic Coaches Association's North-South All-Star Volleyball matches Nov. 21-23 at Erskine College. "We fought all the way through. Made too many errors in the 5th set. We didn't give up and kept fighting and that's what it's all about."