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New coach, same plan for Lady Saints

Nansemond-Suffolk’s girls volleyball team became one of the teams steadily in the state rankings and around the top of the Tidewater Conference during Shane Foster’s coaching tenure.

After last season, Foster, who in his day job at NSA was the Upper School Headmaster for seven years and the Head of School for three years, accepted a job in Kansas City, Mo.

As far as the girls volleyball program has been concerned, not much is changing thanks to new head coach Elizabeth Stello. Stello was an assistant for Foster for the last few seasons and she knows first-hand why the Lady Saints had consistent success.

“Coach Foster was big on the game still being fun. He was big on working hard and yet having a great experience playing the game,” said Stello on Thursday evening after a match at NSA against Cape Henry.

“Mr. Foster didn’t yell and my goal is to continue that way of coaching.”

On Thursday, the Lady Saints, who along with a coaching change lost most of their usual starters from a season ago, found out why Cape Henry is considered a main favorite to win the Tidewater Conference. Cape Henry served up a 24-4 advantage on aces and the Dolphin offense was strong as CH won 25-7, 25-15, 25-15.

“Cape Henry’s had the same core of players for three years now, so yes, they are the team to beat in the league,” said Stello.

In the opening game, the visiting Lady Dolphins didn’t miss a beat. By the time they had a 19-5 lead, CH already had totaled 10 aces including a streak of five straight by Paige Wheeler.

In games two and three, NSA hung close to Cape Henry for awhile before Lady Dolphin rallies took over.

NSA setter Mackenzie Westfall got chances to set for Alice Persons and Mary Kate Fowler early in game two and NSA was tied 10-10 before a 6-1 CH run.

In the final game, a 9-2 CH run made it 15-8 CH. NSA scored six straight points on Persons’ serve, including two aces, to get within a point at 15-14; then again at 16-15 on a kill by Westfall. CH scored nine straight points to finish the match. Most of the Lady Dolphin attack came through setter Kate Pleasants who had 23 assists and most of those sets went to Morgan Freeman who had 15 kills.

For NSA, Westfall had six assists and four digs. Fowler had six digs and two kills.

Earlier in the week, on Tuesday in Williamsburg, NSA won a five-game match against Walsingham, 26-24, 20-25, 20-25, 25-18, 16-14. Walsingham was the state runner-up in VIS (Virginia Independent Schools) Division II last year and state champions in 2005 and 2006.

NSA trailed 14-12 in the final game. Mary Kate Fowler served NSA past two match points and to a 16-14 win.

“The girls were confident and we just kept playing,” said Stello.

“It was a match that truly could’ve gone either way.”

“It certainly meant a lot to prove to us we could fight for a conference title and be right in there with every other team,” said Stello.

“Especially after we fought for four games so hard, to finish it with a win meant a lot.”

NSA (1-2, 0-0) was set to go to Richmond on Saturday for a tournament at The Steward School. Concerns about Hanna caused the cancellation of the tournament though, so NSA’s next match is Tuesday evening at Hampton Roads.