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Down two sets to one against archrival Collins, the seniors on the Shelby County volleyball team “Tooke” over.
Led by seniors Shelby Tooke and Ariana Jones, the Rockets rallied Thursday for a back-and-forth, 5-set victory (16-25, 25-16, 16-25, 25-12, 15-10) over the host Titans.
“Once they get their games going, everybody else follows suit,” Shelby County Coach Felicia Pace said.
Middle blocker Tooke tallied 13 kills, three solo blocks and 15 digs, and Jones, an outside hitter, recorded a match-high 21 kills for the Rockets (4-3, 3-0), who with the victory also took a leg up in the 30th District standings.
In the first set, though, kills were hard to come by for Shelby as the host Titans dominated, behind senior middle blocker Aaliyah Wells, scoring four of the first five points of the match and leading, 10-5, before blowing the set open with a 10-2 surge.
The second set was tied at 4-all before Shelby scored 12 of the next 13 points. Tooke had four kills in that run.
“She’s been a beast,” Pace said of Tooke. “She will attack the ball from anywhere, and she’s jumping like she’s on a jumping bean on her blocks. I consider her to be a big tool for us.”
The third set started similar to the first. The Titans raced out to a 7-1 lead and barely looked back. Shelby County couldn’t get closer than four points the rest of the set, which was capped by a kill by Wells.
She had another kill early in the fourth set to tie it at 3-all before the Rockets reeled off seven of the next eight points, most of which came after Wells rotated out of the front row.
“We have one very prominent senior, and when she’s not in the front row, we’re still struggling to find someone to step up,” Collins Coach Abbey Buchert said.
After calling a timeout, Collins cut Shelby’s lead to 12-8, but then Tooke took control, first with a solo block, then with an ace. She served up two more during the Rockets’ 9-0 run. Jones’ kill ended the fourth set and sent the match to a winner-take-all final.
In the fifth the two teams were tied at 5-all before Tooke’s tip kill put Shelby up for good and started a 5-0 run. The Titans trimmed it to 10-7 before a service error, a 2-hit violation and another kill by Tooke capped a 3-0 run. A block by Tooke gave the Rockets a 14-9 lead. They would close out the match moments later.
“We’re always, I think, pretty evenly matched,” Buchert said. “They’re very good defensively, and they really made it hard for us to earn our points.”
Wells led Collins with 19 kills.
“Aaliyah’s going to get hers. She tipped and hit over us,” Pace said. “But we were going to try and take care of everything else that happens on the floor.”
Junior Dasia Jones added nine kills for the Rockets, while sophomore setter Keri Perdue recorded 22 assists and 14 digs for the Titans.
The two teams, who split a pair of regular-season matches last year, will meet again Sept. 24 at Mike Casey Gymnasium in a match that could decide the Nos. 1 and 2 seedings in the 30th District Tournament.
“It’s going to be a battle for district. Everybody is right there at the same level. It’s going to be up for grabs. It’s going to take one team to step up and say, ‘This is my district to take,’” Pace said.
“It’s definitely still going to be up for grabs; it’s definitely anybody’s game,” said Buchert, whose team has beaten Shelby for the last two district tournament titles. “Plus the district winner hosts region, so it’s a big prize in itself. Everybody is hunting that and wanting that.”
V: Shelby County def. Collins 16-25, 25-16, 16-25, 25-12, 15-10
SCHS:Shelby Tooke 13 kills, 3 solo blocks, 15 digs; Ariana Jones 21 kills; Dasia Jones 9 kills.
CHS:Aaliyah Wells 19 kills; Keri Perdue 22 assists, 14 digs; Mi Chaela Stoudemire 10 digs, 3 blocks; Adrienne Holtzworth 18 digs.