River tops tourney nerves

Published 9:48 pm Thursday, October 27, 2011

Nansemond River sophomore Tatyana Thomas hits between two Western Branch blockers in Wednesday night’s Southeastern District Tournament match at Oscar Smith. The Lady Warriors won 21-25, 26-24, 25-20, 25-20. No. 5 Nansemond River plays No. 1 Hickory in the district semifinals on Tuesday evening.

CHESAPEAKE — Postseason nerves weren’t choosy among Nansemond River’s girls volleyball squad in the first round of the Southeastern District Tournament Wednesday night.

“For our underclassmen, well, and our seniors too, this was a new experience for all of them,” said Nansemond River head coach Deidra Rader.

By the end of the four-set match against Western Branch, the Lady Warriors were simply playing volleyball and that was good for a 21-25, 26-24, 25-20, 25-20 Nansemond River victory sending the Lady Warriors into the district semifinals.

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“It’s definitely a big accomplishment. For the seniors, it’s taken us four years and we’re finally here,” said senior Courtney Lowers, who’s led the Lady Warriors in hitting and plenty of other categories throughout the season.

Lowers finished with 15 kills and 13 digs as the No. 5 Lady Warriors topped No. 4 Western Branch, so that part of Nansemond River’s game didn’t change at all from the regular season to the tourney.

The turning point, for Nansemond River’s confidence and the match’s outcome, was late in the second set.

The Lady Warriors scored four straight points, taking an 18-15 lead on Jasmine Arthur’s block to take a point that actually saw two blocks by Arthur at the center of the net before she got a third to end the point.

Western Branch came back to make it 18-18 and the set was tied 24-24, putting the Lady Bruins two points from a commanding two-set lead in the match.

The Lady Bruins put a spike into the net and Lady Warrior libero C.J. Wood served an ace, putting her serve short and just inside a sideline, to claim the set.

In set three, five straight points on Janeen Griffith’s serve put NR ahead 10-8. Western Branch went on a 7-1 run to gain a 19-16 lead.

The Lady Warriors rallied at the perfect time. Three straight NR points made it 19-19. After a Lady Bruin point, Courtney Lowers put a kill down to make it 20-20.

Griffith’s serving led to another Lady Warrior run. Morgan Lowers, NR’s setter, surprised Western Branch with a kill to make it 22-20 NR. Wood pushed a shot over and the Lady Bruins thought it was going long, but it fell inside the baseline for the next NR point. The Lady Warriors kept rolling to take the set.

Set four was the best of the night as the Lady Warrior confidence picked up. Nansemond River took an 8-7 lead and kept the lead the rest of the way, building it to as much as 20-12.

Western Branch fought back to a 23-19 NR lead. The Lady Warriors got back to big hitting by Arthur and Courtney Lowers for the last two points they needed. Lowers scored five kills in the last set.

Wood led NR’s defense with 15 digs. Arthur and Tatyana Thomas combined for 15 blocks.

“A lot of the girls, this is their first time playing in a big tournament like this,” Lowers said.

“We started out really jittery, but we played as a team and with our hearts and it was just about who wanted it more. I’m proud of everyone,” Lowers said.

The Lady Warriors (10-11) meet No. 1 Hickory in the semifinals Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Oscar Smith.

Nansemond River beat Western Branch in two out of three matches this season. NR’s won seven of its last eight matches with a four-set loss to Hickory as the only setback.