The Newton High School volleyball team is off to the Class 5A state tournament for the fifth straight year, winning the sub-state title Saturday at Ravenscroft Gym.
In the semifinals, Newton downed league-rival Maize 18-25, 27-25, 25-23. Newton held off a match point in the second set to advance.
In the finals, Newton topped McPherson 19-25, 25-21, 25-20.
“The girls were making their adjustments well against them,” Newton coach Jamie Dibbens said. “They get pretty fired up when they play McPherson. They’ve been watching a lot of film, getting ready for them.”
In the championship match for Newton, Maggie Remsberg finished with 14 kills. Asha Regier had 12 kills and served two aces. DesiRay Kernal had eight kills with a downed block.
“It was best one by far,” said Remsberg, who is four for four in sub-state finals. “It was the most challenging sub-state we’ve had.”
“I still have a lot of intensity,” Kernal said. “Marah (Zenner) set us so well. That was a great McPherson. I have to give them a hand. We came out and wanted it more. After the first set (against Maize), we just had to pick it up and cut down our mistakes. We showed that we wanted it more.”
“Coming into this I was really nervous,” said Regier, who missed much of the last two weeks with injury. “After the first set, I felt a lot better, but we knew we had to step it up for the seniors. We knew this could be their last game. After the first set (against McPherson), I wasn’t very hopeful, but we started coming back. The coach called me over and said to do what I needed to do. I started playing with a lot more confidence.”
McPherson was led by Cassie Cooks with 12 kills and a downed block. Jaycee Burghart had six kills and two downed blocks. Rhain Swanson had six kills and a downed block. Katie Berg had six kills. Meghan Smith downed three blocks.
McPherson ends the season 28-11.
Newton jumped out 3-0 in the first set of the finals, but was unable to push its advantage any further. Tied 16-16, McPherson made a 3-0 run to force a Railer time out. The Bullpups pressed their advantage to 21-17, followed by a pair of Railer points. McPherson got those points back on a serving error and a hitting error. A Cooks spike and a Railer hitting error ended the set.
Newton scored the first two points of the second set and allowed McPherson back in the game with serving errors. Newton led 11-10, but a serving error sparked a 3-0 McPherson run. Newton fought back to tie, only to give up a serving error and fall behind by three.
The Railers rallied again, taking a 23-20 lead on a Regier ace. After a time out, Regier served an error. A McPherson hitting error and Remsberg spike forced a third game.
“They just kept fighting back,” Remsberg said of the second set.
Newton jumped out 15-8 in the third set. The Bullpups fought back to within four before the two teams traded points until the end of the match.
Newton downs McPherson for the third time this season. All three matches went three sets.
“I have trouble remembering everything in the match,” McPherson coach Christy Doile said. “It was so crazy back-and-forth. I tried not to just look at the score. They hurt us with some outside stuff, hitting line. We couldn’t stop that. On the night, we hit pretty good. Cassie hit pretty well tonight. I told the kids, we were 35-6 last year and 30-11 this year. We had to fight through injuries last year. This year, we didn’t have (Andrea) Sweat because of injuries. As a program, we’ve done a pretty good job of being successful. I don’t know if many people that have lost their best players back-to-back and the way they have responded. The girls are so competitive.”
McPherson finished the season 10-0 in AV-CTL III play. The Bullpups also made the jump to Class 5A this season from 4A, Division I last year.
“I remember when we used to be 5A, but it was new for the kids,” Doile said. “On the weekends, we played a lot of 5A and 6A teams. I think the top 10 in 5A are a little stronger than in 4A. There’s a lot more depth in 5A.”
McPherson loses four seniors.
In the first set against Maize, Newton led 4-1 and 7-4, but were unable to push the advantage any further. Maize replied with an 8-3 run to force a Railer time out. The Eagles extended its lead to 17-12, forcing the final Newton time out of the set. Newton drew no closer than two points the rest of the way.
Newton jumped ahead 6-1 in the second set, prompting a Maize time out. Newton extended its lead to 13-4, but then gave up an 8-0 run. After a Railer time out, Newton scored two straight. Maize took its last time out of the set down 18-14 and made a run to tie the set 21-21. Each team missed its first set point opportunity. A Maize hitting error down 26-25 gave the Railers the set.
“We had so many serving errors, that was preventing us from going on a run,” Dibbens said. “The biggest thing you have to do against a good team like Maize is keep your runs. You lose all momentum when you do that. I told the girls at the start of the third set, if you can get a run or two, we will win. We were able to that.”
Newton led 3-1 in the third set, but was quickly reeled back in. Down 10-9, Newton scored three straight to force a Maize time out. Newton added another point on the run before giving up a service error. Maize rallied to take a 19-17 lead and force Newton’s first time out of the set. The Railers rallied to take a 24-21 lead. Maize held off two match points, forcing Newton’s final time out. Remsberg then hit a spike off a Maize player to win the match.
Regier led Newton with 14 kills and three downed blocks. Kernal had 10 kills and two downed blocks. Remsberg finished with nine kills. Marah Zenner served three aces, followed by Remsberg with two.
For Maize, which ends the season 14-18, Mallorie Koehn had 14 kills and a downed block. Baylee Miller had nine kills. Sophia Buzzard had five kills and three downed blocks. Ally Prebble had three downed blocks. Brianna Allen and Koehn each served three aces. Emily Ryno had 19 digs, followed by Koehn and Carson Elman with 11 each and Miller with 10. Allen set 30 assists.
“Both teams came in so intense,” Remsberg said. “We knew they were going to come at us. We had a little more fight at the end.”
Newton finishes the season 3-1 against Maize.
McPherson entered the finals by beating Great Bend 25-22, 25-8 in the semifinals.
McPherson jumped out to a 7-3 lead in the first set. Great Bend got back within one, 18-17, but McPherson was able to extend its advantage. Great Bend held off three set points before Kallie Jost ended it with a downed block.
Great Bend errors, hitting violations and net violations allowed McPherson to jump out 6-1 in the second set.
Cooks led McPherson with eight kills and two downed blocks. Swanson had five kills and two downed blocks. Jost had three kills, a downed block and three aces.
For Great Bend, 13-14, Jenna Mauler had four kills. Olivia Mull had two kills and two downed blocks.
Newton enters state play 30-7. The Railers are the seventh seed and will play Lansing (36-4) at 4:30 p.m. Friday at the Tony’s Pizza Events Center in Salina, followed by Andover (35-4) at 5:30 p.m. and St. Thomas Aquinas (32-7) at 7:30 p.m.
“We have a few things we’re going to need to work on,” Remsberg said. “Going to state, we’re just going to keep fighting out butts off and believe in ourselves.”
“We need to have a lot of improvement,” Kernal said. “We need to work on stopping tips a little better. Other than that, we have to be aggressive.”
After years at the Expocentre in Topeka, Newton moves to the Tony’s Pizza Events Center (formally known as the Bicentennial Center) in Salina.
“Coach (Lisa) George actually played at the state tournament in Salina,” Dibbens said. “It’s a great place to play. If every no. 1 seed wins, we’ll be the eighth seed. We were the no. 1 seed a couple of years ago. It doesn’t matter to me. When the girls get pretty fired up, they are hard to beat.”
Newton def. Maize 19-25, 27-25, 25-23
McPherson def. Great Bend 25-22, 25-8
Newton def. McPherson 19-25, 25-21, 25-20