Red Devils advance to state title game

Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh.

The Newton-Conover volleyball team has the date, time and location penciled in after winning 3-1 Tuesday against twice-beaten North Surry.

“It took everybody on my team to win this game today,” said N-C coach Linda Richards, who advanced to her first state title game at the school. “The bench did a great job. We already had a scouting report, so we knew what their tendencies were.

Falling down 1-0 after a competitive first set, the Lady Red Devils (28-5) rallied to win three straight and the match.

“We just had so much adrenaline going at that first game,” said N-C senior Isabella Zaliagiris. “After we got our nerves settled, we just realized that this is our game and we have to go all out.”

Newton-Conover pinpointed the weakness of the Greyhounds’ defense, scoring point after point by Zaliagiris and fellow-senior Corbin Evans.

“We played smarter,” Richards said of her team’s performance in the second set. “I think we made some unforced errors in that first game. That was the difference in that game. We knew it was going to be a tough game no matter what. We didn’t take care of the ball in the first game. We fixed that in the second, third and fourth game.”

After winning the second set impressively by a 25-10 score, the Lady Red Devils once again pulled ahead in the third.

With a 13-8 lead, the Red Devils maintained momentum throughout the set. An Evans kill gave N-C a 2-1 set advantage.

A stout defensive performance by the Lady Red Devils in the game continued into the fourth set.

Richards believes that set the tone for the match.

“My defense got my hitters the ball,” she said. “I truly believe that defense has to get them the ball in order to finish. It takes everybody to do it.”

A final error forced after an N-C serve clinched the heart-stopping victory, putting the Red Devils on a collision course with Northeastern (22-0) in the state championship game in Raleigh.

“The five seniors on this team have waited two years to go,” Evans said. “We’ve lost in the third and fourth round the past two years. This is our chance and senior year. We wanted our last game as seniors to be at state championships. We knew we had all the players and aspects to do it.”

Zaliagiris was driven to tears when asked about playing for a championship.

“It just feels amazing,” she said. “I’ve worked so hard with all of the practices and all of the Saturday games. I’ve worked myself to death. This is my senior year and I’m going to Raleigh. It just feels so good. It’s indescribable.”