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Newark topples Lady Lions for regional title

EARLVILE — Newark has the kind of volleyball program coach Hallie May is striving to build her LaMoille/Ohio Lady Lions into one day. While they may have made strides in that direction this year, the Lady Lions found Thursday they are not there yet.

The mighty Norseman breezed to the Earlville Class 1A Regional championship, defeating the Lady Lions 25-10, 25-10. May said her team definitely encountered some jitters playing in the atmosphere of a regional championship for the first time, especially against a program like Newark’s which has become well accustomed to that setting.

“I told our girls it takes teams getting to a big game like and maybe losing big or coming home with a big win in order to advance our program. The girls have never been in a situation like this before,” May said. “The future is bright for us. The sophomore team got third in the Little Ten Tournament, so we’re headed in the right direction.”

It was the Lady Norsemen (29-4-1) who had all facets of their game going in the right direction Thursday. They used strong hitting at the net and serving to dominant the Lady Lions.

Senior setter Lauren Tollefson had a 12-point string to stretch the Norseman’s lead to 19-2 in the first set. Kaitlyn Hughes helped pull the Lady Lions back within 21-10 with a couple of kills and a block in a stretch that saw L/O outscore Newark 7-1.

However, Kristina Nichols served out the set with four points and two aces.

Newark didn’t let up in the second set, with Nichols serving up seven straight after a sideout for an 8-0 lead. Tollefson had a five-point string with an ace to make it 14-1.

“They played flawless,” May said. “They’ve got great serving. When you’re not able to get a good pass, your offense is slim pickings after that.”

Newark coach Tonya Nagel said her team’s serving, led by Tollefson (17 points, 2 aces) and Nichols (11 points, 3 aces), set the tone early.

“Our serving was so impressive. When you’re able to move the serves around the floor, you can get into a team’s head quickly,” she said.

The Lady Norseman’s hitting attack was equally impressive led by senior Abbey Akre’s 10 kills.

Shiela Browning paced the Lady Lions (14-16) with four kills with Ashley Schrader contributing five assists and five digs, Sami O’Brien three digs and three points, Ragen Forbes seven digs, and Vanessa Martinez five digs.

After failing to get past the regional championship the past two seasons after a supersectional run in 2009, Nagel said her seniors were charged to get the job done this time.

“That was a pretty sore subject around here. They were determined they were not going to leave without a regional championship,” Nagel said.

The Norsemen (29-4-1) will advance to the Polo Sectional, facing Rockford Keith Country Day at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

• Notes: One has to go back to 1978 when LaMoille was the last Bureau County volleyball team still standing, then playing for the sectional championship. The Lady Lions won districts (no regionals then) in 1978 and 1979.

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