NSA advances to state title
FREDERICKSBURG n Nansemond-Suffolk Academy won another barnburner Friday night over second-seeded Liberty Christian Academy, advancing into this afternoon’s Division 1 state championship match.
Getting contributions from everyone, senior setter Kristen Nuckles made the biggest and steadiest contribution, racking up 49 assists in the five-game victory; 19-25, 25-14, 26-24, 23-25, 15-11.
With a busload of NSA students turning the Fredericksburg gym into a definite home-court advantage, the Lady Saints stormed out to a 7-2 lead.
From there, LC took control of the opening game.
LC scored 16 of the next 21 points after NSA’s opening burst.
Lauren Bogard helped steady things for NSA starting in game two.
With Bogard getting two blocks and a kill early on, NSA got out to a 10-6 lead.
LC scored the next four, but NSA then followed with four straight of their own.
Back-to-back aces from Minka Foster made it 16-11 NSA and after a trade of side outs, Michelle Boucher served NSA to a 19-12 lead.
A Foster/Bogard block raised the lead to 22-14 and forced an LC timeout.
The timeout did nothing to slow the Lady Saints and a Nuckles set and Foster spike took game point.
After LC controlled game one easily and NSA did the same in game two; the final three games would be down to the wire.
With good hitting coming from Jade Bishop, Foster and Boucher, NSA held a 21-17 lead in game three.
LC rallied to tie the score at 22-22 and then take a 24-23 lead after a Boucher hit went wide.
On game point, LC sent a serve into the net.
A tough serve by Jaclyn Ramsey set up a free ball for NSA and Bishop put down a dink off a Nuckles set, giving NSA the lead back.
On NSA’s game point, good digs by Alex Westfall and Ramsey kept the point alive and Boucher finished with a dink over two LC blockers, again off a Nuckles assist.
NSA opened up a lead to start game four before LC began a desperate push to stay in the match.
The two sides traded the lead through the middle part of the game, but LC opened up a margin with three straight NSA errors making it 23-18 LC.
LC led 24-19, and NSA nearly killed off all five game points only for LC to take the fifth chance and force a fifth game.
In the decisive game, NSA took the lead with three straight points, including a Foster kill and a Bishop ace, making it an 8-5 lead.
The Lady Saints blocking returned at a key moment, with Nuckles, Bogard and Alexis Taves making plays to build a 13-8 advantage.
A timeout by LC helped them regroup and they took three straight points.
NSA got a good pass from Westfall, a set from Nuckles and a Boucher spike to stop the run, bringing up match point.
And in a replay of the last point of the conference final match, Ramsey served up an ace, with a little help from the net cord, and NSA advanced to the final match.
Making the tournament victory that much more meaningful for Nuckles was the fact that Friday was the birthday of her father who passed away 11 years ago.
Surrounded by family, teammates and classmates, she let her happy emotions show following the match.
“They just believe,” said head coach Shane Foster after the match, “they believe they are never out of a contest.”
“I told them near the end of the fourth game, that we need to at least get some momentum going into the fifth game and they rallied behind one another.
“That’s the difference in this year’s team versus last year’s team,” said Foster, “there’s no intimidation, just confidence and it’s not just in the three seniors either, it’s the whole team.”
NSA plays for the state title today at 3 p.m., again at Fredericksburg Christian.