By Matt Morgan
Wake Forest-Rolesville outside hitter Karson Ratliff didn’t waste any time setting the tone for the final set of a 25-22, 25-20, 25-14 win over Leesville Road on Tuesday night.
After struggling through the first two sets against the Pride, Ratliff came alive in the third. With her team leading 5-1, Ratliff took an Elizabeth James set, spiked it off the ground and back up into the air 12 feet.
Ratliff’s thunderous spike was just the start of a dominant final set for one of the area’s top players. Ratliff, a senior, registered 10 of her 15 kills in the third as the Cougars swept Leesville Road.
“Karson is obviously very gifted physically,” WF-R coach Jenna Hinton said. “So whenever we are backed into a corner or we need a side out on a play, we rely on her to terminate. That is her role on the team.”
Ratliff’s emergence in the final set wasn’t simply a matter of her flipping a switch. During the break between the second and third sets, the Cougars talked about limiting the mistakes that plagued them early.
“Sometimes it’s not how many errors you have but when you error,” Hinton said. “When you’re trying to build a little momentum and create a little tempo for your team, it seems like there are all these interruptions.”
WF-R tightened its play in the third, controlling the ball off the serve, building up its attack and setting a more consistent block on defense. Hinton said the improvement in those three areas helped the Cougars gain the continuity they didn’t have early.
Taylor Walker finished with six kills for WF-R while Amanda Grandy and James registered four and three respectively. Sasha Karelov led Leesville Road with nine kills including seven in the first set.
With the win, WF-R improved to 17-1 on the season. Heading into the final six matches of the regular season, Hinton said she’s trying to let her senior-laden team learn from its own mistakes.
“It’s like they’ve heard everything their coach has to say for the last three or four years,” Hinton said. “We’re working on trying to get them to be a little more accountable. I’m trying as a coach to back off a little bit because I think it’ll have much more of an impact if they take the lead and they take this where they want to go.”
This story will appear will the October 3 edition of the North Raleigh News and Midtown News.