NEWBERRY — A tiebreaker to determine a tiebreaker.
That was what it took to separate the Newberry (11-14) and Lafayette (11-6) varsity volleyball teams in one of the wildest matches either team has experienced this season.
On Thursday, Newberry’s senior night, the Panthers and Hornets each won two sets before Lafayette managed to secure the final set — and the victory — in dramatic fashion.
A Touching Senior Night Ceremony
For the final match of the regular season, Newberry prepared a lovely senior night, with the five seniors on the team walking onto the court with their parents to receive flowers and hugs from their younger teammates.
The Newberry seniors were also given the chance to share their best experiences with the team and provide some words of wisdom to the teammates who will remain after they graduate.
“Always remember your reasons for playing,” Haley Tharp said. “Have fun and stay positive!”
After the ceremony concluded, it was time for Newberry and Lafayette to square off on the court, with the teams energized by what they had just seen.
Back and Forth for Four Sets
The match was energetic throughout, and certainly was too close to call for the first four sets.
Multiple errors by Lafayette put Newberry up 4-0 early in the first set, and although the Hornets got back into the set quickly, it could not overcome the deficit. The Panthers’ lead throughout the set remained, and after winning three straight points to make the score 24-16, they closed out the set with a 25-17 win.
The second set was initially close, but Lafayette seemed to find another gear. With the score tied at 5-5, the Hornets got going, winning six points in a row, punctuating the run with a strong kill by Kiley Beach to make it 11-5.
That shift in momentum must have caught the Panthers off guard, as they went down 24-13 in the set, just one point from losing. They managed to score six straight points to make it 24-19, but the Brooke Lamb’s kill finally put it away for the Hornets, evening the sets at one apiece.
The third set again started out with multiple Lafayette errors, but it bounced back to tie the score at 4-4. That was when Newberry won five straight points, including a kill by Sarah Watson. The Panthers were able to ride that momentum into a 25-18 victoryt, going up 2-1 overall.
The fourth set had the Hornets’ backs against the wall, and despite the pressure and noise from the Newberry fans, they rose to the occasion.
The best point of the match was won by a Lamb kill for Lafayette to make the score 7-7. The Hornets then scored six points in a row to take a 13-7 lead.
Newberry fought back, but it could not overcome the deficit, and the match was sent to a deciding fifth set.
An Incredible End to an Incredible Match
Newberry exploded out to a 5-0 lead in the final set, including a brilliant tip that barely snuck over the net by the Panthers’ Chloe Jones.
But Lafayette stayed strong and went on a run of its own, tying the final set at 7-7. An ace by the Hornets’ Libby Beach completed the comeback.
From that point on, the two teams were neck and neck all the way to the proverbial finish line.
There were so many shocking moments throughout the second half of the final set, including the ball bouncing multiple times on top of the net after a block, both teams missing serves, and the game remaining tied even past the 15-point mark.
With the score tied at 16, whichever team gained a two-point advantage would claim the win.
The Hornets did not let the opportunity slip out of their grasp. A tip by Kiley Beach and a block by Havyn Richardson gave Lafayette an unreal 18-16 victory in the final set, and in turn, the match.
Despite the loss, Newberry captain Hanna Templeton was proud of her team’s performance, and for good reason.
“This is the best team I’ve ever been on,” Templeton said. “No matter what, we always give 100% attitude and 100% effort.”
Both teams await scheduling for the district tournaments that start next week.