The top-seeded Nansemond River High School girls' volleyball team celebrates after becoming the Ironclad Conference 18 tournament champions Thursday night. Front row, from left: Haley Maxwell, Camryn Holt, Kelly Lafferty, Maddy-Grace Lavender, Monet Ballard, Rachel York and head coach Nicole Johnson; back row, from left: Cassidy Feldt, Victoria Newbill, Courtney DeLucia, Morgan Lowers, Madison Rhodes, Tatyana Thomas, Jasmine Ballard and Rachel Kent.
The top-seeded Nansemond River High School girls' volleyball team celebrates after becoming the Ironclad Conference 18 tournament champions Thursday night. Front row, from left: Haley Maxwell, Camryn Holt, Kelly Lafferty, Maddy-Grace Lavender, Monet Ballard, Rachel York and head coach Nicole Johnson; back row, from left: Cassidy Feldt, Victoria Newbill, Courtney DeLucia, Morgan Lowers, Madison Rhodes, Tatyana Thomas, Jasmine Ballard and Rachel Kent.

NRHS seizes conference tournament title

Published 10:27pm Thursday, November 7, 2013

King’s Fork High School’s second-seeded girls’ volleyball team put up quite a fight in two out of three games Thursday night, but No. 1 seed and host Nansemond River High School always came out on top. The Lady Warriors rode scores of 25-20, 25-10 and 26-24 to the first Ironclad Conference 18 tournament championship.

“Loved the way we started, loved the way we finished,” Nansemond River head coach Nicole Johnson said.

The Lady Bulldogs briefly took the lead in the first game, but the Lady Warriors recovered and senior Tatyana Thomas ended the set with an emphatic kill.

In the second game, King’s Fork responded with an early 4-1 lead, but Nansemond River again recovered, and a Thomas service run extended her team’s lead from 9-3 to 20-3.

Nansemond River High School seniors Tatyana Thomas and Cassidy Feldt get ready to defend during Thursday night's conference tournament championship win over King's Fork High School.
Nansemond River High School seniors Tatyana Thomas and Cassidy Feldt get ready to defend during Thursday night’s conference tournament championship win over King’s Fork High School.

While Johnson said Thomas is not typically the team’s go-to server, “She was in the zone tonight.”

Thomas said her serving abilities were weaker at the beginning of the season, but Thursday illustrated her development. “It was definitely, I guess, a step up for me,” she said.

Johnson alluded to the recently announcement all-conference honors when she said Thomas “is the unanimously decided Player of the Year, and she played like it tonight.”

She ended up with eight kills, six aces and three blocks.

Senior Rachel Kent also drew strong praise from her coach for having a big impact during the match.

“She’s a crunch time player, though,” Johnson said. “I’m not going to say I’m surprised that she came out ready to play tonight.”

Kent had 10 digs, five kills and an ace. Sophomore Camryn Holt handed out 22 assists.

It was a tough night for the Lady Bulldogs, but head coach Sarah Porter echoed Johnson’s thoughts to a certain degree in saying her team started and finished well.

“Other than that second game, I think they fought hard,” Porter said of her players. But on a mental level, she said, “That second game really killed us.”

For King’s Fork, junior Tiffany Cox had five kills, six digs and one ace, freshman Cydney Nichols had eight digs and senior Erin Banks had five kills and four assists.

Porter was named the Ironclad Conference’s Coach of the Year for girls’ volleyball. She was initially tied in the voting among coaches with Nansemond River’s Johnson. Porter said she thought Johnson should have won because of the Lady Warriors’ superior record, now 17-2.

However, she said she was told the decision took other things into account, like working with a group of girls largely lacking travel ball experience. Porter has coached the varsity team at King’s Fork for 10 years, since the school opened its doors.

Johnson, who just recently moved to Virginia, now has conference regular season and tournament championships under her belt.

“I’m lucky and happy I chose to come here,” she said. “I’m just trying to follow in the footsteps of coaches I’ve had in the past.”

One of her foremost stars, Thomas, earned Player of the Year honors with the following regular season statistics: 182 kills, 82 blocks and 33 aces.

“I’ve been working for this since I’ve been a freshman,” she said. “I’m the only 4-year letterman on the team.”

Nansemond River was also represented with the boys’ volleyball Player of the Year honor, which went to senior Adrian Drew. During the regular season, he tallied 144 kills, 72 blocks, 42 digs and 34 aces.

Both the Lady Warriors and the Lady Bulldogs now move on to regional competition. On Monday, Nansemond River hosts Lake Taylor High School and King’s Fork (11-11) visits Churchland High School.

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