Isabella Zaliagiris' 27 kills leads N-C to title

Thriving in pain in the third set against Bandys, Newton-Conover senior volleyball player Isabella Zaliagiris fought through an injury.

The senior drove down 27 kills in Monday’s CVAC volleyball final, leading the Lady Red Devils to a 3-1 victory over the Lady Trojans in the rubber match between the two schools.

“I got a cramp,” Zaliagiris said. “My head was still in the game and my heart was still in the game. I just wanted to get my cramp cleared up so I could get back on the floor as soon as possible. I wanted nothing more than to beat Bandys.”

Losing Zaliagiris wasn’t the only injury concern for the Lady Red Devils. Fellow-senior Sarah Van Horn was also grimmacing in pain throughout the match after hitting the floor over and over again for dig attempts.

“Sarah is dealing with a turf toe,” Richards said. “She toughed it out. Sarah and Isabella are just all about the team and that’s what it takes. I’m really proud of them, not taking anything from Bandys because they are a hard working team. I’m sure they are going to do well in the playoffs.”

Newton-Conover (23-5) and Bandys (15-2) shared the regular season CVAC crown after splitting the season series, but only one could take home the conference tournament title and No. 1 playoff seed.

“This was to decide who got the No. 1 seed,” said N-C coach Linda Richards. “We get to stay at home and that’s just a plus for us. That’s what I’m looking forward to. I hope we meet Bandys again.”

Despite pulling ahead with a 1-0 lead in the match, Bandys lost momentum and made some mental gaffs that cost the Lady Trojans three-straight sets and ended the chance for a second victory over their rivals.

“At the beginning, we started out strong,” said Bandys coach Randi Keith. “Then we started making mental errors and it got in our head. We’ve got to keep the ball in-bounds. It was little mistakes that cost us big in the game.”

After playing such a brutally physical and emotional contest, both coaches were happy to see their teams play in such a competitive environment.

“I’m glad to have a game this tough before the playoffs,” Richards said. “To play a team like this gets both of our teams ready for what is coming up on Saturday.”

“This put a lot of pressure on our players,” Keith said. “We can evaluate how we handled the pressure and work on it. This game actually can help us learn a lot heading into playoffs. I would rather it happen now then later.”

Bandys and Newton-Conover are both expected to be playing home volleyball contests on Saturday when they pairings are released on Thursday.