Opponents rarely tower over Becca Kapavik.
That, however, is what the Newark Catholic senior experienced Saturday. Bring it on.
Kapavik took the challenge to help neutralize Beaver Eastern’s Bailey Helton, and the Green Wave had Kapavik’s back. The NC defense frustrated the Eagles throughout and the Green Wave dominated, 25-19, 25-16, 25-19, in a Division IV regional final at Lancaster High School.
“As a senior, I can’t be more proud of that kid,” NC coach Jeri Helfer said. “We kept saying (Kapavik) might not get a lot of kills. But I tell you what, she made the biggest difference. She was focused right on Helton, and I definitely think it would have been a whole different game if Becca hadn’t played at the level she did tonight.”
The Green Wave are headed to their first state tournament since 2008. NC (24-4) had lost to Eastern (25-2) the previous two years in a regional semifinal. A round later this season, NC turned the tables.
The Green Wave play Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph (22-5) at 6 p.m. Thursday at Wright State University’s Nutter Center. VASJ beat Tuscarawas Central Catholic in four sets Saturday.
“We definitely came out ready to win,” said Maddie Wirth, NC’s other senior. “We were trying to have fun no matter what. It just feels so good that we came out on top.
The 6-foot Kapavik stood eye-to-eye with the 6-4 Helton for almost every rotation each was on the court. Kapavik’s second early block gave the Green Wave a 7-3 lead in the first set and sent the large crowd into a frenzy. Kapavik flashed a smile as teammates celebrated around her.
“I feel like it got us momentum,” Kapavik said. “We were really nervous about them, and just getting those blocks was kind of a relief: ‘OK, we can do this.'”
NC continued the balanced attack it has had during the postseason. Jenna Bourne and Megan Stanton each had an ace in the first, and Wirth added a pair of kills.
The Green Wave led virtually the whole way in the first. When the Eagles made a run, sophomore Taylor Daignault had three late kills, including the final two.
“We played the best we have on Thursday, and I think it definitely carried over,” Helfer said. “It is starting to click, and maybe we are kind of late bloomers. We have put in the hard work, and now that it is starting to click, it has been almost surreal.”
NC served exceptionally during the regional, and it kept Eastern on its heels. The Eagles had several ball-control errors, and their passing was a mess. Christine Joyce and Kapavik each had a kill on an overpass during the second set, and Jill Blacksten finished it with a block.
Blacksten continued the block party in the third. Eastern turned a 14-7 deficit into a 15-15 tie, but Kapavik was right back at it.
Kapavik and Joyce combined for a block to break the tie, and four Daignault kills soon followed. An attack error gave NC a 24-19 lead and when Daignault’s deep serve forced a free ball, Blacksten provided the kill from the right side.
“Through the whole rotation, they had two giant girls,” Kapavik said. “We weren’t going to see the ball as much, but we had to play selfless and play like we wanted to get the ball so they would bite on us. The outside could get the big kill.”
Wirth said: “Coach Helfer kept asking Becca if she would rather have 10 kills or go to the final four. She had to sacrifice some of those hits to Taylor.”
Daignault had 14 kills, three blocks and 22 digs. Joyce, another sophomore, added 10 kills. Marisa Peddicord had 16 digs, Kapavik and Blacksten combined for 11 blocks and Stanton and Kelly Clapper totaled 29 assists and three kills.
“I would never have imagined that we would be at the final four,” Joyce said. “I still can’t believe it is happening. I kind of feel like I am in a dream, and I need to be pinched to be woken up. It’s awesome.”