Nash Central

Nash Central setter Kiara Vidurrizaga (1) makes a play for Brooke Thompson on Thursday while Emma Midkiff (14) looks on. Vidurrizaga tallied 12 assists, four service aces and as many digs to help the Bulldogs turn back Roanoke Rapids in five sets.

The line outside the Hive, where volleyball foes Nash Central and Roanoke Rapids staged a manic, five-set classic on Thursday, was anything but routine.

Masked-up, it stood, and in single file.

Conversation, whisper-quiet.

Temp-screening and contact-tracing registration, mandatory.

Welcome, all, to prep athletics in the era of viral contagion, where the only thing commonplace was the disposition of the match — hyper-kinetic from the outset and ultimately claimed by the Bulldogs in 25-15, 21-25, 15-25, 25-23 (15-11) fashion.

And while the final score will go on record as a setback for the hosts, it’s not indicative of the evening’s entire story — one of success, really, in a dark time.

A play in five acts

The drama, constructed in see-you-at-the-net fashion and sustained by lengthy rallies, featured six players operating near peak-capacity: Brooke Thompson, Emma Midkiff and Kiara Vidurrizaga of Nash Central, and the RRHS trio of Grace Carroll, Karlee Hammack and Susanna Odom — which kept a small fan base on edge all evening.

From sideline to endline the tireless action went, trading sets until the Race to 15, when Thompson — who played through a shoulder injury to tally 13 kills, six blocks and three assists — helped right the Bulldog offense and set the stage for a season-opening victory.

“Very pleased,” Nash Central head coach Heather Thompson said of the triumph, secured after two-plus hours by Vidurrizaga, who booked 12 assists, four service aces and as many digs. “We had a lot of hustle out there, which I thought was a great thing for us… and this team we had to play, I mean — they’re a great team.”

Just not as often, unfortunately, as the visitors during the win-or-go-home fourth set, or during the finale, which saw Nash Central race to a 4-1 advantage before the Jackets pushed back.

“We just gotta work on our closing,” RRHS head coach Shequanta McGee said of the affair. “We had them 2-1, and we let off. We should have kept pushing… there was a lot of miscommunication.”

But during a dust-up when the donning of masks muted much of the environment’s usual pomp, the Jackets’ effort was far from woeful.

All along the watchtower

The match also brought about expanded duty for RRHS athletic director Mark Snead, who worked diligently with staff to organize, reorganize and sanitize the gym to accommodate the proceedings.

“It was such a great day for our athletes to put on the black-and-gold again and compete for RRHS,” Snead said of the gathering, the first of its kind this fall in the city proper. “I just want to thank the players and coaches from both teams, as well as the spectators, for following our safety procedures… today is what high school sports are all about, facing new challenges and working together for the greater good.”

Nash Central (1-0) returns to the floor on Monday at Farmville Central, while Roanoke Rapids (1-1) treks to Creedmoor for a clash with South Granville.