Saints Win Region Volleyball Crown
Brock Kappelmann - November 8, 2016 2:34 pm
For the first time since 2003, the Seward County Lady Saints lifted the Region VI Championship plaque Sunday night in the Sports Arena in Hutchinson, defeating their longtime rivals from the Salt City 3-1 to punch their ticket to Casper, Wyoming and the NJCAA National Tournament. Seward, who has now won 10 straight, began the day with a 3-0 sweep over Colby in the semifinals and turned around an hour later and took it to the Blue Dragons on their home floor, finishing the clinching fourth set in style with a 25-13 win to seal the 3-1 victory.
Seward showed it meant business from the opening serve of their semifinal match against Colby on Sunday, getting a big block from Maritza Mesa and Belissa Guidotti to get the action going, starting a 4-0 start to the first set, eventually turning into a 15-8 lead to take momentum right away. The Lady Saints went on to take the first 25-15 in convincing fashion and grinded out a 25-22 win in the second to take a 2-0 lead in the match. In the third, Seward went to veteran Kaysie Paxton on the outside who banged home kill after kill to open up another big lead for the Lady Saints before eventually the gals in green finished off the Trojans 25-17 to earn their second straight trip to the Region VI Championship Match.
Paxton led the Lady Saints with 11 kills in the win and hit a career high .476 in the process. Amanda Pereira dialed up her fourth straight double-double with 25 assists and 11 digs while Mariana Nascimento led a Seward block that produced 11 stuffs in the three setter with five rejections of her own.
SEWARD COUNTY/COLBY BOX SCORE<http://www.sewardsaints.com/sports/wvball/2016-17/boxscores/20161106_qfyo.xml>
The results played to seed once again in the tournament meaning that the championship match pitted Co-Jayhawk West Champions Seward County and Hutchinson against each other in the finals for the second straight year.
Things looked bleak for the Lady Saints early on as the Blue Dragons raced out to a 16-9 lead in front of their home crowd midway through the first set. However, a Seward timeout killed the Hutchinson momentum and the Lady Saints made a push of their own, scoring 11 of the next 12 points in the set, using a combination of a big block and the left arm of Maritza Mesa to erase a seven point deficit and turn it into a three point lead of their own at 20-17. Late in the set, the Lady Saints got stuck in a rotation and watched as the Dragons pushed back to even the score at 23 and then take a 24-23 lead with the set on the line. On the Dragons first set point, Mariana Nascimento banged a quick ball in the middle to the floor tying the score at 24 and the teams traded the next two points to make it 25-25. Seward setter went back to Nascimento in the middle to give the Lady Saints a 26-25 lead and on Seward’s second set point of the first, Hutch tipped one wide to put the nail in their own coffin as the Lady Saints took it 27-25 to take a 1-0 lead in the match.
The second set was a nip and tuck battle early on as Seward and Hutch played to a 10-10 tie at the 20 point mark. The score remained tied four points later when the Lady Saints stepped on the gas, getting five straight kills off the right arms of Nascimento and Erica Ferreira to take a 17-12 lead before a Blue Dragon timeout. A rash of Seward service errors allowed Hutchinson to hang around and moments later the Lady Saints five point lead was cut to just two at 21-19. After trading the next two points, a Hutch kill made it a one point game at 22-21 and the Lady Saints and Blue Dragons sided out on each other for the next four to make it a 24-23 score. With the set on the line, Pereira again dialed in on Nascimento who found the line on a slide to seal the second 25-23 and put the Lady Saints in front of the Dragons 2-1.
Everything but the finish in the third closely mirrored the second set for both sides. The score was tied 13-13 midway through when a Seward run pushed the Lady Saints in front by three 17-14. Seward looked like it had the championship in its grasp as the Lady Saints stretched their lead to four late in the set at 20-16, but with their season on the line, the Dragons weren’t quite ready to give in just yet. Hutch outscored Seward 9-3 in the waning moments of the third to stave off elimination and keep the match going with a 25-23 win.
After watching one year ago as Seward took a 2-0 lead on Hutch in the Greenhouse just to see the lead crumble into a 3-2 Blue Dragon win, the Saints faithful were worried that the momentum shift at the end of the third could spell trouble for the gals in green. Mesa and the Lady Saint sophomores weren’t going to let that happen this time around. After a service error by Hutchinson started the fourth set, Mesa came up with kills on the next three plays to quickly stake Seward out to a 4-0 lead. After a Dragon sideout, the Lady Saints continued to push, eventually cresting their lead at 10-2 after just 12 points of action. After going ahead by nine at 15-6, Seward hit a little bit of a speedbump as Hutch scored four straight to make it a 15-10 game, but once again, the will of the Lady Saints refused to let them come in second place on this day. Seward dominated the rest of the rest, getting another kill from Mesa and a block from the sophomore and Belissa Guidotti to spur an eight point run to blow the set wide open to 23-10. With the championship trophy all but in their hands, the Lady Saints finished the day as it had started, getting a combo block on the outside by Mesa and Guidotti to send the Seward faithful into a furry as the Lady Saints finished off a 25-13 win to win the match 3-1 and claim the Region VI Championship.
Seward had a block party on the Dragons home floor, registering 13 rejections in the win. Guidotti was a part of six of those blocks while Nascimento was in on five including three solos of her own. Mesa paced the offense with 18 kills while Paxton again came up big with 11. Pereira dished out an even 40 assists and had a career high 17 digs for the Lady Saints and libero Jazlyn Smith paced a strong Seward back line in the victory with 22 digs.
In a storybook season that the Lady Saints hope has another chapter left in it, Seward clinches its first Region VI Championship since the 2003 season, advancing to the NJCAA National Tournament for the sixth time in school history.
Seward improves to 26-9 on the season with the two wins and has now won 10 straight heading into the National Tournament, losing just two sets in the process of the streak.
The Lady Saints will now wait and see which seed and which opponent they will draw for the NJCAA National Tournament that begins November 17th in Casper, Wyoming.
SEWARD COUNTY/HUTCHINSON BOX SCORE<http://www.sewardsaints.com/sports/wvball/2016-17/boxscores/20161106_biyo.xml>