Becca Kapavik and Jill Blacksten provide a defensive wall for Newark Catholic.
The rest of the Green Wave were reminded Thursday to give them some help. Taylor Daignault and Maddie Wirth each had late blocks to propel NC to a 25-15, 25-17, 22-25, 25-15 victory against Waterford in a Division IV regional semifinal at Lancaster High School.
“It is very exciting. We wanted to play as a team, and we did that,” junior setter Kelly Clapper said. “We are so excited for each other.”
NC (23-4) advances to its first regional final since 2008. That also is the last time the Green Wave reached the state tournament. The Green Wave play nemesis Beaver Eastern (25-1) at 2 p.m. Saturday in Lancaster.
The Green Wave fell to Eastern the past two years in the regional semifinals. The Eagles, who went on to win the 2012 regional title, beat Shekinah Christian in three sets in the second semifinal Thursday.
“Kids have to be all-around players,” NC coach Jeri Helfer said. “They have to be off blockers to pick up the tips, setter dumps and cover balls. We really worked on cover balls because we know we are going to face all of this blocking coming up. We did a great job of picking up the ball off the block as well.”
Against Waterford, Daignault and fellow outside hitter Christine Joyce tied Kapavik for the team lead with 10 kills. As important against a powerful offensive team, Daignault had 22 digs, and Joyce added 17.
“Everybody has a great kill once in a while,” Daignault said. “What we really get psyched up for is our defense. When we have a great dig, there is nothing that gets more exciting for us.”
Serving carried NC early. While the Wildcats had two service errors, the Green Wave had five aces in the first set led by Clapper and Daignault with two apiece. The Green Wave scored 14 of the final 18 points of the first set.
The Green Wave’s offensive balance then took control. Waterford had nobody taller than 5-foot-9, and it became a shooting gallery for Kapavik and Blacksten, who combined for six kills and two blocks in the second set.
Blacksten finished with eight kills in support of the trio with 10. Clapper had 18 assists, and Megan Stanton had 15 assists, three aces and three kills on quick dumps.
“Everything we have done in sectionals and districts was getting other kids the opportunity and not relying on one or two people so much, and (Thursday night) was proof,” Helfer said. “Those kids stepped up. They were used to it and got the job done.”
Waterford did not have the size to provide a consistent block, but the Wildcats kept swinging aggressively at the net. They had NC on the run the entire third set and, despite a late run from the Green Wave, never lost the lead.
Daignault’s ace gave NC a 7-5 lead in the fourth set, and the Green Wave were off and running. Daignault, one of three co-captains despite being a sophomore, provided quite a finishing kick with four kills, two blocks and that early ace in the final set.
“It is kind of funny because we know that Taylor is always there,” Helfer said. “She is that option that we know she can take care of that. It is nice that we spread it around, but we know Taylor is going to get the job done. Obviously, she did.”