Newberry earns first trip to state tournament

Thanks to a 27-25, 18-25, 25-20, 16-25, 15-9 win against Williston, Newberry has secured a spot in the FHSAA Class 1A state semifinals.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, November 9, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 10, 2013 at 12:12 a.m.

WILLISTON — Just eight years ago, the Newberry volleyball team had just completed its third consecutive winless season. And now, following a hard-fought 27-25, 18-25, 25-20, 16-25, 15-9 victory Saturday at Williston, the Panthers are on their way to the FHSAA Class 1A state semifinals next Friday at 1 p.m. against Sneads at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee.

“It is truly amazing to be a part of this,” said junior outside hitter Kelsey Harris, who led NHS with 24 digs, 21 kills and 10 service points (five aces). “Newberry has never gone to anything in the past.

“This is phenomenal, just phenomenal.”

The Red Devils (19-7) certainly didn’t make it easy.

Led by Morgan Vanasco (20 service points, 18 kills), Chelsea Dola (30 assists) and Darby Battle (six digs), WHS never let the Panthers (17-11) get comfortable, something that also could be said for NHS.

The largest lead any team ever had was Williston’s 12-2 advantage in the second set, and that was cut to 14-12 within a few minutes. That kind of parity likely had to be expected from two schools that finished 2-2 against each other in 2013.

“It was a match of momentum swings, and for us, it was unfortunate for us that they had the last one,” said Red Devils coach Kimberly Nivala, who was hoping to lead Williston to its first final four since 1997.

The Red Devils will graduate seven seniors, including Vanasco, a talented outside hitter who gave her black headband with the word “Beast” beaded into it to her friend and rival Harris after the match.

“This is a great win for us,” said Panthers’ coach Dena Perry, who also got 38 assists from Mariah Sapp, 14 kills from Sydney Daugherty and 12 service points (six aces) from Lexus McCray. “Williston played a tremendous match.

“I’m just so proud of our team.”

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