ROYAL CENTER—A slow start in each of the three sets proved too much for South Newton to overcome in 25-12, 25-19, 26-24 loss to host Pioneer in the sectional final Saturday.
The Lady Rebels fell behind 5-0 in the first set, 9-1 in the second, and 7-1 in the third.
“Yes, it was an extremely slow start for us all 3 games, we just couldn’t find our rhythm together,” said South Newton coach Laura Robbins. “I can’t really put my finger on it, but seemed like we were playing timid and afraid to make mistakes. But we cannot go back and change things now, all we can do is look at the positives of the year and move forward for the coming year.”
The Lady Rebels never got going in the opening set and trailed the entire way. South Newton fell behind as much as 10 points in the second set, before closing the gap 14-10, with a 6-1 scoring run that was highlighted by a big kill from Maddie Whaley. The Lady Rebels couldn’t get any closer and would go on to fall 25-19.
Again falling behind 7-1put the Lady Rebels in a huge hole against Pioneer in the third set. But in this set, it started to look like the South Newton team fans had watched all season long, as they fought back to grab its first lead of the match.
Trailing 13-8, the Lady Rebels went on an 11-1 scoring spurt that was ignited by three kills from Whaley and a huge block from Samantha Warren.
Pioneer answered right back with a 6-0 run of its own to reclaim the lead, 20-19. Pioneer would go on to push its advantage to 22-20 before South Newton once again dug deep to fight back. Back-to-back kills from junior Leah Schriner helped the Lady Rebels go on a 4-0 run for a 24-22 lead, but Pioneer finished off the match by scoring the final four points for the 26-24 win.
Whaley wrapped up stellar prep career with 12 kills, two blocks and 16 digs in the loss. Schriner added six kills, 16 digs and 10 assists.
Also for South Newton, Warren three kills, a block, and a dig; Kim Hall, one kill, one ace, nine digs, and 11 assists; Elizabeth Garing 22 digs and one assist; Malyah Embery one kill and three digs; and Hayley Warne 14 digs and an assist.
With the loss, the Lady Rebels wrapped up a remarkable season at 31-2.
“It was the best year in South Newton Volleyball history (best record of any team period at South Newton); MWC Champs, West Central Invite Champs, Tri-County Invite Champs, Stella Gillen Invite Champs and only dropping 16 sets all season long,” said Robbins. “I think is pretty impressive. Whaley hit her 1,000th career kill mark and Garing got her 1000th dig this season. I think that says a lot about the culture of the program and how far it has come in the last eight years. Our overall record is 131-108, so it’s not perfect, but it’s getting there.”
“I think for me personally as a coach, I don’t always focus on the wins and losses of a team, but rather what did we learn, how did we grow and how will playing this sport better us as people,” added Robbins. “The memories they have from playing this sport will far exceed winning a sectional championship. Sure, it stings, it hurts, and we wish it was a different outcome; but the fans, community, school, students, parents, coaches and players will remember the feeling we had after those 31 wins, doing our school song in the gym and the sense of pride we had as a Rebel Volleyball Team...and to me, that’s what is important. From a coaching standpoint, I think I need to get better at the X’s & O’s of the game and being more strategic in big games. Just as I expect my players to get better in the off-season, I need to do the same. I’m hoping to run a mini club for 6th-8th grade starting in February. Details aren’t finalized yet, but hopefully this can help get more girls getting the proper reps in the off-season and working to keep building up this program. I cannot say enough great things about these 6 seniors. They have dedicated so much time to this sport and this program; it’s been a huge turnaround for me as a coach. We have big shoes to fill with them leaving, but I am confident they all will go out and do great things in this world and make it a better place. Our 2 senior managers have sacrificed so much time and often time that goes unnoticed and unappreciated and I’m so thankful for their dedication.”
Earlier on Saturday, South Newton rolled to a 25-9, 25-13, 25-7 victory over Tri-County in the semifinals.
Whaley led the way with nine kills, while Schriner had five, Warren added four, Embery had three and Megan Honn added one. Whaley also led the way with eight aces, while Hall had four. Warren chipped in with two blocks; Garing added 13 digs and Hall had 14 assists.
South Newton knocked off an improved West Central squad in the opening round last Monday 25-15, 25-17, 20-25, 25-23. Schriner lead all around with 19 kills, 18 assists, 6 aces, and 18 digs. Whaley chipped in her 16 kills and 14 digs. Garing had 17 digs; Malyah Embery had 6 kills while Kim Hall had 3 kills, 1 ace, 1 block, 24 assists and 5 kills. Warne was great in the back row with 16 digs.