Gracie Rains down kills on opponents
The Newton High School volleyball team established itself early as the dominant team early in the first and third sets against rival Maize during an Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division I triangular at Ravenscroft Gym.
The Railers, however, struggled to close out the sets before claiming the sweep.
Newton topped Campus 25-22, 25-14; and Maize 23-25, 25-20, 27-25.
Maize downed Campus 22-25, 25-21, 25-20.
Newton senior Gracie Rains led the Railers with 31 kills on the night.
“Our first game (against Maize) was pretty iffy,” Gracie Rains said. “It was an emotional roller coaster. We were able to pull thought. We had a good attitude. It was a lot of fun.”
Gracie Rains played quite a bit of club ball during the summer, playing with the Shock Wave.
She feels things are starting to pick up with the Railers this season. With the graduation of Asha Regier, she has been thrust into the role of lead hitter as well as a key back-row player.
“Towards the end of summer, we started clicking,” she said. “We started playing as a whole. It’s a lot, but helps that I have the team behind me. I have their back and I have theirs.”
Gracie Rains has committed to NCAA Division II Fort Hays State for next year.
“They have a really good ag program, so I’m going to go there to study animal sciences,” she said.
In the first set against Maize, Newton jumped out 11-5, but the Eagles quickly got back in the game. The Railers again extended the lead, but to no avail. Up 23-21, Newton gave up four straight points.
Newton took a 20-16 lead in the second set ad traded points until the Railers won.
Newton took a 19-16 lead in the third set, but Maize came back to lead 24-23. Each team held off a pair of match points before Gracie Rains hit a pair of kills to give the Railers the match.
“In practice, we work on a lot of situations where we need to put points,” Gracie Rains said. “We do that a lot and that last match felt like it.”
“In the first two (sets), we’d get a lead and then let them roll off two or three in a row and tie it up,” Newton coach Jamie Dibbens said. “Maize is a very good defensive team. Anything we hit at them, they’d sent it right back over. They don’t make a lot of unforced errors. We have to cut down our errors.”
Newton was able to establish its blocking early in the first set and reestablish it in the third.
“Blocking is a game-changer,” Dibbens said. “It’s something we have to work on.”
Gracie Rains led the Railers with 20 kills with 19 digs. Olivia Antonowich served three aces. Lana Mayfield downed two blocks. Abby Koontz had 25 digs. Olivia Antonowich had 19 digs. Emma Rains had 10 digs. Elena Vanderweg set 16 assists.
For Maize, Abby Godfrey had five kills. Cameron Cleary had four kills and downed six blocks. Chloe Linville downed three blocks. Kelsey Kuhl served two aces and had 14 digs. Karen Fraser-Slothower had 13 digs. Kaylee Lively set eight assists, followed by Gracie Kaumeyer with seven.
Newton opened the day with a straight-set win over Campus.
Gracie Rains had 11 kills, while Antonowich added eight. Each of the two had nine digs. Abby Koontz and Tegan Livesay each served two aces. Vanderweg set 12 assists, while Emma Rains set eight.
“The season has gone so much better than I thought it would start,” Dibbens said. “I think lot of people thought we would be down, and we haven’t been down at all. We have not let anything slip. We come out competitive every time. We’re going to be even more successful when we get all three of our options down — our right side and our left side. Our middles have freed up a lot of options.”
Newton is 7-2, 2-1 in AV-CTL I play, and plays at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Maize Invitational. The Railers will face Goddard Eisenhower, Hutchinson and Garden City in pool play. Hutchinson is unbeaten.
“They have a great outside hitter that we’re going to have to watch,” Dibbens said. “If we put a block up across, she’s going to swing line and if we put a block up on the line, she’s going to swing across. She’s very smart. The blockers are going to have to take away that spot and the defense will have to move around it.”
Newton def. Campus 25-22, 25-14
Maize def. Campus 22-25, 25-21, 25-20
Newton def. Maize 23-25, 25-20, 29-27
Newton def. Campus 25-20, 25-17
Maize def. Campus 25-21, 25-17
Newton def. Maize 25-21, 25-21