Kicking off its season Thursday, the Newton-Conover volleyball team had to work extra hard for a season-opening win.
The Lady Red Devils (1-0) fought through tough first and third games against the Hickory Lady Red Tornadoes (0-1), but picked up the win, 28-26, 25-11, 26-24.
Leading Newton-Conover was Isabella Zaliagiris, who drove down nine kills. Sarah Van Horn had 15 digs.
The Lady Red Devils took an early 3-0 lead, but the two teams battled back and forth until the 26-26 mark.
Two crucial plays helped ensure a Lady Red Devils victory in game one, including a kill by Zaliagiris and a block my a newcomer to the team — Kadesha Gibbs.
“I’m proud of our defense tonight,” said N-C coach Linda Richards. “Kadesha played great tonight. She’s really come along. Isabella is a great hitter. She’s really gotten better.”
Carrying momentum from the first game, Newton-Conover rolled to an easy win in game two. With the two teams tied 7-7, Newton-Conover closed the game with a 18-4 run to take a 2-0 lead in the match.
“We came in to tonight not thinking we were going to be very strong because we have so many freshman,” Van Horn said. “They really stepped up to the plate tonight. It was just a great effort from everybody.”
Similar to the first game between the two squads, Hickory and Newton-Conover. The Lady Red Tornadoes took a 10-5 lead in the match, only to have Newton-Conover go on a 14-8 run to lead the match 19-18.
Hickory then rolled off five straight points to put themselves in the driver’s seat.
The Lady Red Devils never gave up, scoring three straight points. Included in the run was a diving save of the ball by Van Horn in the far corner to send it back over the net.
“Our defense was really weak last year,” Van Horn said. “This year, we are really working on it and making it stronger. That diving play was just pure heart. I don’t even know how I got to the ball. I just ran, dived as hard as I could and hit it over the net.”
The Lady Red Devils finished off the match victory with a service ace by Laura Costner and a kill by Lanecia Williams.
Newton-Conover participates in the “Best of the West” tournament at Davidson College on Saturday. The tournament features some of the best high school volleyball teams in the Western part of North Carolina.