SHERRARD — Riverdale’s Jessie Hemm and Mary Mitton finally have what they’ve been playing four years for — a regional title.
When Hemm smashed the decisive point to the middle of the court where no one was standing, the Rams erupted into celebration.
It wasn’t easy, but they had beaten Rockridge 25-22 and 26-24 for the Sherrard Class 2A regional title Thursday.
“We’ve been waiting for this,” Hemm said after gathering her emotions. “It’s amazing. I can’t wait to see where the rest of the season goes.”
The last shot came after but another long volley in a match that had many between two teams that were meeting for the third time.
“Mary and I have been playing for (coach) Lisa (Black) for four years,” Hemm said. “We knew as seniors playing for four years, we had to push this last play.”
The shot ended an epic second-game battle that saw the Rams sprint out to a 9-2 lead and gradually fall behind 16-15 and finally 23-21. But they outscored the Rockets 5-1 down the stretch, getting the last three points on a Mitton kill, an Ashley Garber shot that skipped over the Rockets after glancing off one of them and then Hemm’s kill.
“We were a little worried,” admitted Hemm, whose Rams beat the Rockets all three times this season. “They played really awesome tonight. And we kind of weren’t expecting it.”
Mitton said the goal at that point was simple — concentrate and work hard for every point.
“It was the best feeling in the world,” she said when Hemm’s kill ended it.
“This is a big deal,” said Black. “We haven’t been here for five years. So this is a big deal for us to get another regional championship.”
Black had plenty of praise for the Rockets, who were led by Taylor Zeck’s 14 digs and eight kills and Karlie Drish’s 17 assists and eight digs.
“Rockridge stepped up tonight,” Black said. “They put us to the test for sure. They had some great blocks, some great digs. They played their hearts out.”
Rockridge coach Candy Lopez, whose Rockets bow out with a 19-16 record, was not about to disagree with that statement.
“I asked from them to give everything they had.” Lopez said. “And I don’t think there’s any doubt that they did give us everything they had.”
The first time the two teams met it went three games, the second time was a blowout, Lopez said.
“We definitely had a good run,” she said of their second-game comeback Thursday. “They can bring themselves out of things. Sometimes as a coach I feel like I am just overseeing. They’re a very positive group.”
But in the end it was Riverdale that rallied from a 23-21 deficit in the second game when a third game looked imminent.
“It tells me that they can dig deep when they need to and be able to pull out the win,” Black said.