MICHIGANTOWN — Blue River Valley was making its second consecutive regional appearance, while South Newton hadn’t made it this far since 1986.

That experience and the ability to handle the nerves paid huge dividends for the Lady Vikings in a 25-14, 25-16, 25-22 victory Oct. 26.

“It was our first time being here and I think the atmosphere and the nerves got to us early on and it carried over,” said South Newton coach Laura Robbins. “We didn’t take care of the ball when it was on our side. We didn’t execute at the net and couldn’t get our offense going.”

While South Newton was having trouble getting its attacks over, Blue River Valley didn’t make it easy for the Lady Rebels. While the Lady Vikings didn’t do anything spectacular, they were very sound defensively and didn’t make mistakes.

Blue River Valley finished the game with no errors on passes or digs, while the Lady Rebels had nine dig errors and four ball-handling errors and 10 errors on receiving serves.

“Once we did get it going it was like we immediately went two steps back, it would have been nice to get that third set because we kept battling, we just didn’t execute and we didn’t serve as aggressively as we normally do. I think we were afraid of making errors and you can’t play like that,” added Robbins.

South Newton fell behind 7-2 in the first set and couldn’t get closer than a three-point deficit the rest of the way. The Lady Vikings finished off the opening set with an 8-1 scoring run for the 25-14 victory.

South Newton again fell behind early in the second set, trailing by as many as six points. Three kills and an ace from senior Leah Schriner along with a block by junior Samantha Warren helped South Newton close within a point, 13-12, but Blue River Valley finished off the set with a 12-4 run for the 25-16 win.

South Newton was the team that got out to a quick lead in the third set. After a kill and a block from Warren and an ace by freshman Alexxys Standish, the Lady Rebels led 5-1.

After a close call didn’t go South Newton’s way on the next point, Blue River Valley used it to steal the momentum and get right back into the match.

From that point on, there would be four ties and two lead changes. With the game tied 12-12, Blue River Valley went on a 7-1 scoring spurt to grab control.

The Lady Rebels still had a run of their own in them and fought back after key blocks from Warren, freshman Lexi Cripe, and sophomore Lexi Conradi. South Newton cut the deficit to just two points, 21-19 and got key kills from Schriner and Warren down the stretch but Blue River Valley was able to escape with the 25-22 win and advance to the regional finals.

Schriner led South Newton with eight kills, while Warren had five, Cripe added four, and Conradi and freshman Lizzie Glassburn each had three. Warren finished with a team-high six blocks. Glassburn led the team with 18 digs, while freshman Abbey Carroll and Warren each had 13 and Standish and Schriner each finished with 11. Schriner and Glassburn each had 10 assists in the loss.

For Blue River Valley, junior Mallory Cross and sophomore Ally Madden combined for 30 kills in the win.

Blue River would go on to lose to Cowan in three sets in the regional finals, while South Newton’s season ended with a record of 26-8 and the program’s first sectional championship since 1983.

“We are still very young and this will be a learning experience for us,” added Robbins. “We are, however, losing four valuable seniors that have grown so much over their four years here and they have helped leave this program in such a great place. This season has been one in a million. Building the program from the bottom up and finally getting to see your picture on the wall (as sectional champs) is pretty awesome and the community, the parents, the past kids that I have coached, it is all for them because they have been a part of this too. I wanted this for everyone that I have coached since coming to South Newton and it feels so good. It is pretty special.”