Newberry falls to Sneads in 1A state semifinal

Junior Kelsey Harris led the Panthers with six kills, 16 digs and two service aces.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer/FILE
Published: Friday, November 15, 2013 at 6:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 15, 2013 at 6:26 p.m.

KISSIMMEE — Being on the big stage of high school volleyball for the first time was a bit much for the Newberry Panthers early on in their Class 1A state semifinal match with No. 3 Sneads Friday at the Silver Spurs Arena.

Once the nerves and excitement wore off, they were more competitive, but the Pirates were simply too much, sweeping away Newberry in three sets — 25-8, 25-19, 25-18.

For Sneads (24-6), it will play in its first state final when it takes on No. 1 Baker, a team it lost to two years ago in five sets in the state semifinals.

For the Panthers (17-12), who will return the bulk of their team next season, getting here was a crowning achievement considering they won their first playoff match this year. Last year they reached the playoffs for the first time in 30 years.

“I think that we played a nervous match,” first-year coach Dena Perry said. “We started out really nervous with jitters. But the girls really turned that around and fought hard in the second and third sets.

“We are very young and they really showed a lot of heart throughout the match not giving up. I'm proud of how far they have come this season, fighting through several injuries and lots of issues and difficulties along the way. They have never given up once this season and I knew today they wouldn't as well and they didn't.”

Junior Kelsey Harris finished with six kills, 16 digs and two service aces while fellow junior Sydney Daugherty had five kills and five digs and setter Mariah Sapp had 16 assists and seven digs.

The Panthers were never in game 1, trailing 8-1 to start, then 18-5 en route to a dominating Pirate win.

After a 3-3 tie in set two, Sneads reeled off four straight points, three off a pair of kills and block from De'Aryll Green, for a 7-3 advantage. Newberry never led the rest of the way, although it closed the gap toward the end of the set as the Pirates opened a 2-0 match lead.

After a 4-4 tie in the third set, Sneads again took control, holding off little rallies by the Panthers and ending the match on a kill from Ashlyn Roberts, coach Sheila Roberts' daughter, who finished with a team-leading 12 for the match.

For Harris, Daugherty and Sapp, the goal is for a return trip to state.

“Coming here was something that was our goal at the beginning of the season,” Harris said. “I really don't want to leave. Knowing our small, little community is so supportive of our athletics is very encouraging.”

“At the beginning of the first set, our nerves really got to us,” Sapp said. “It was a different atmosphere for the girls, but I was really proud of us fighting back in those second and third sets.”

Perry said the early adrenaline forced a lot of service and hitting errors.

“Those errors, you can't have those when you are playing on the big stage like this,” she said. “We can only learn from it.”

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