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Youthful Lady Bulldogs back to winning ways
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The Rockdale volleyball team has been showing its leadership and composure despite its youth throughout the season, and did so again on Thursday.

Rockdale bounced back from two straight defeats by beating Warner Robins and Loganville 2-0.

The Lady Bulldogs (13-5, 4-1 Region 8-AAAA) suffered three losses in its first four matches, before going on an impressive winning streak which featured several close matches. They brought the Decatur Invitational title to Rockdale by beating Paideia 2-1 (15-11 in third set) in the semifinals and then knocking off Tucker 25-20, 25-16 in the championship.

Following the big win in Decatur, Rockdale lost to Locust Grove 22-25, 25-16, 23-25 and Loganville 19-25, 22-25 on Tuesday.

"Tuesday night, that was our first area loss and our first loss since the first weekend," Rockdale coach Stephen Sansing said. "I think the reason the other night hurt as bad as it did was because we lost a close match. We had won every close match that we have been in and they just expected to win."

After the two losses Sansing sat his team down and discussed how they could move on by learning from the defeats rather than dwelling on them.

"We just had one of those nights, but we didn't let it effect us," Sansing said.

Indeed they didn't, as the Lady Bulldogs welcomed a Warner Robins team that was 11-1 heading in with 11-straight wins before a loss to Houston County on Tuesday. Rockdale defeated the Demons 25-12 in the first set and 25-12 in the second.

After defeating Warner Robins, Rockdale faced Loganville, which was 7-12 entering Thursday, but just recently had the return of its top middle blocker.

"They were a much better team than we were anticipating," Sansing said. "We came out and played well together."

Rockdale defeated the Red Devils 25-19 in the first set and 25-12 in the second. Leading the way against Loganville were seniors Kendra Lackey with 11 kills and Libby Bradford with 25 assists. However, adding to the firepower of Thursday's win, as well as the whole season, were Abby Bradford and Brittney Frost with seven kills each, and Jada Allen and Alycia Johnson with six each.

Abby, Frost, Allen and Johnson have all been pleasant surprises this season and a big reason the Lady Bulldogs have been so successful. The quartet didn't play much, if any at all for Rockdale last year, and have been able to step up in critical ways.

"I've been pleasantly surprised that a number of our new players have stepped up on varsity," Sansing said. "For them to come in and be big contributors this year speaks to the preparation they put in the offseason."

Abby and Allen, both middle blockers, played on the junior varsity team last season and Johnson has stepped up as the Lady Bulldogs' outside hitter this year, after not even playing on varsity or J.V. in 2010.

"She was on the ninth grade team last year, and she didn't even really play J.V.," Sansing said. "She's come up and has been a big hitter for us."

Sansing hopes the younger kids along with his veteran core of Libby Bradford and Lackey can build on Thursday's win and possibly put together another winning streak such as the 10-match run that ended Tuesday. But beyond that, Rockdale has their sights set on a second consecutive Region 8-AAAA title.

"We think we can keep winning and hopefully move on make state, and surprise people," Sansing said."