Lady Saints win wild match

Published 10:30 pm Tuesday, October 20, 2009

In a contest between two girls volleyball teams racing neck and neck in the conference and state standings, Nansemond-Suffolk rallied in dramatic fashion to defeat visiting Peninsula Catholic on Tuesday evening, 25-17, 10-25, 17-25, 25-19, 15-12.

NSA entered the contest ranked No. 6 in the Virginia Independent Schools, Div. II coaches poll. The Lady Knights are No. 7 in this week’s poll. The top eight schools make the state tournament in early November. In the Tidewater Conference, the Lady Saints and Lady Knights are fighting for position in the top four of the league.

The Lady Saints rolled through the opening set without a problem. Peninsula Catholic opened with a 7-3 lead, but NSA moved ahead with a 9-3 run and led the rest of the set.

NSA lost all of its rhythm and normal attacking ability through sets two and three. Peninsula Catholic made it tough with good blocking and outstanding digging in the back row. Some of NSA’s struggles were due to, or at least came after, a couple rotation violations in the second set.

NSA was without a key player, Alice Persons, because of illness. Persons, said NSA head coach Elizabeth Stello, is a starter and can play any position on the court, so NSA’s usual rotation and positions were thrown off some on Tuesday night.

“They took a little longer to get in sync because of that,” said Stello.

“We started talking like we needed to and we came together. To their credit, they were the ones who got the momentum back and played the way they’re capable of playing,” said Stello.

There was some encouragement from the bench though. After Peninsula Catholic won the first three points of the fourth set, including two with unforced errors by NSA, Stello, normally as quiet as a coach can possibly be, slammed her clipboard to the gym floor and let her Saints know that they needed to get going.

Mackenzie Westfall, who finished with 17 assists, came up with a kill and a block on back-to-back points to put NSA up 11-10. NSA kept rallying to a 15-10 lead. Back-to-back aces by Tori Dail made it 21-15 NSA. A kill by Alyssa Grigg gave NSA point No. 24 and Parys Zambas’s kill took the set.

The final set still had time for more momentum swings. NSA scored four straight points to take a 4-2 lead. With NSA still leading, at 10-6, the Lady Knights rolled off six straight points to move close to the victory.

NSA ended the PC rally and Drew Weitzman successfully served out the final four points. Westfall blocked a Lady Knight spike attempt to make it 13-12 NSA. Westfall set up a kill by Grigg for the next point and PC hit too long on match point.

In addition to her setting, Westfall had 10 digs and six kills. Grigg had 11 digs and seven kills. Dail had nine digs and seven kills.

NSA (12-6, 4-2) hosts Norfolk Collegiate on Thursday evening in another match that will go a long way to deciding the standings in the upper half of the TCIS.