Ridge Point shows off heart, depth in sweep of Tompkins

Ridge Point shows off heart, depth in sweep of Tompkins (Copyright (c) 2021 VYPE - All rights reserved)

KATY—As talented as Ridge Point is, and the talent is indeed substantial, it was the Panthers’ heart and depth that stole the show in a 3-0 sweep of Tompkins in their Region III-6A quarterfinal Monday evening at the Merrell Center.

After taking the first set, 25-20, the Panthers (36-10) quickly found themselves trailing 11-4 in the second. Errors and the outstanding play of Tompkins junior hitter Cindy Tchouangwa were the primary culprits.

But the Panthers never gave in. Never griped or hung their heads. Slowly, they started chipping away. A Sydney Jordan block and kill here. A Nina Moorer point there. An Arissa Smith block.

And leading the charge was a freshman, Kennedi Rogers. Rogers had three big points late in the second set, swinging exceptionally well from the left side, and Ridge Point rallied for the win, 26-24.

"Kennedi is the type where pressure doesn't really get to her," Panthers coach Lauryn Bailey said. "She takes all the experience and advice from the upperclassmen. We're at practice every day and all our upperclassmen are talking to her about what she needs to do and how to fix certain things. She's just soaking it all in. She's going to do great things for us."

It was Rogers' right-handed swing cross court that punctuated Ridge Point's win in the second set.

"I saw the line was open, and their blocking was shifting more toward across," said Rogers, who had six kills. "I just used whatever I had, really."

The second set win rang significant for Ridge Point.

"It was huge for us, as far as not letting our errors and what they were doing get in our heads," said senior Alexis Roberson, who had 10 kills and a block. "We had to focus on playing as a team and knowing we can come back, and we did."

From there, an elated Panthers team easily handled a deflated Falcons team.

Ridge Point jumped out to a 17-11 lead in the third set, behind more strong play from Rogers, Jordan, and defensive specialist Josie Condrey, and won, 25-16.

Some of the usual suspects filled up the stat sheet for Ridge Point. Aside from Roberson, Jordan had eight kills, an ace, and a block. Moorer had seven kills. Kayla Wilson had five kills. Smith had three kills and two blocks.

But lately, it's been the two freshmen that have stepped up in big moments. In Ridge Point's 3-1 area playoff win against Memorial on Thursday, it was Aaliyah Smith with a big block and kill. Against Tompkins, it was Rogers.

Interestingly, it was during Ridge Point's sweep of Tompkins in their first meeting Aug. 20 that Rogers—whom Bailey has used situationally this season, primarily as a hitting specialist— said she finally overcame all the nerves and jitters typical of a freshman playing on varsity.

"It boosted my confidence," said Rogers, who only played one set in that game but had kills on each of her two attacks. "All my teammates cheered for me. It was a relief, and it got me overwhelmed with happiness. I always want that feeling."

Bailey said depth can be a game-changer as a team goes deeper into the playoffs.

"You can come and scout us all you want, but I can throw new people in there at any time," she said. "Everybody's opportunity is going to come, and when it comes you've got to be ready. They are."

The Panthers executed well in all aspects of the game against a Tompkins team that had been dominant this season, winning 35 of 40 games entering Monday.

"We knew they had really good hitters and they were going to get their points. We just had to focus on us and make sure we got our 25 (points) before they got theirs," Roberson said. "Defensively, maybe not stuff-blocks, but at least getting touches on the ball were big. The back row flying around us, they did really well. It all came together to where we were able to slow them down enough."

And now Ridge Point is two wins away from a third trip to state in four years.

"These girls are tired," Bailey said. "It's been a long year, ever since last year and the COVID year and then coming back and going to tournaments again. If we've made it this far, we're going to keep going. They're not going to come in and just let you take a set from them.

"They'll fight, and when we decide to fight back, we pull it out in the end."