Warriors learning on the fly

Published 10:21 pm Thursday, September 1, 2011

Nansemond River’s Zach Vann had nine kills and four blocks as the Warriors got their first victory of the season, beating Lakeland 23-25, 25-18, 25-12, 25-13 Wednesday evening at Nansemond River.

Even with being swept in the first two matches of the season, head coach Michael Blei knew his Nansemond River volleyball squad was improving through the early part of the season.

Judging by Wednesday’s four-set win for the Warriors over visiting city rival Lakeland (2-2), Nansemond River (1-2) is making strides even as a match goes on. More Warriors contributed digs, kills and blocks with each set in their 23-25, 25-18, 25-12, 25-13 victory.

“All our hitters were putting balls down tonight,” said Warrior hitter Michael Copeland, who nailed a team-high 12 kills himself.

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“It all clicked today and it was nice to have,” said NR’s Tyler Brown.

The Cavaliers defended Nansemond River’s powerful hitting well enough to rally and claim the opening set.

From a 21-17 Warrior lead, Lakeland rolled off five straight points on Jay Baines’ service. Kylar Sparks scored a kill for a 23-22 Lakeland lead. Zach Vann answered for the Warriors, but two Warrior misses, one on a serve and one on another spike attempt by Vann, gave the set to Lakeland.

Lakeland’s defense was holding up against NR’s attack through most of the second set. After a big kill by Ryan Berrier and a block by Copeland, the Cavaliers got the points back, including with setter Seth Fisher’s soft finesse shot, coming off what looked like a regular set, to go ahead 14-12.

From a 17-17 score, the Warriors seized all the momentum. Brent Tomovik’s block made it four straight NR points. Vann hammered a big spike for a 23-18 NR lead and Brown served a jump-serve ace for the next point.

The Warriors ran out to a 12-1 lead in the third set, making a 20-2 run between the two sets. Brown notched nine assists in the third set. Copeland had five kills. Tomovik and John Joyce added three kills each.

“The guys played more as a team. They were talking more and that opens up more opportunities when you know where everyone is and where everyone is supposed to be,” Blei said.

The Warriors turned the final set into a rout as well. It was 6-1 Warriors in a hurry and 14-6 NR after Copeland scored two kills and a block in three straight points.

“Our defense was better,” Copeland said.

“It was just fun out there,” Brown said.

“And Nate (Welch) was just getting a lot of digs for us,” Copeland said.

Welch, the Warrior libero, finished with eight digs. Brown had 19 assists and six kills. Vann had 11 assists, nine kills and four blocks. Copeland had 12 kills. Tomovik led NR with six blocks.

Fisher finished with 12 assists and five kills for Lakeland. NR held Mike Estienne, Lakeland’s top hitter, to four kills.

The Cavaliers host Great Bridge on Thursday, Sept. 8. The Warriors played a non-district match at Churchland on Thursday afternoon. NR goes back to district play at home against Hickory next Thursday.