The only thing missing from senior night was a victory.
Newark gave visiting Lancaster a fight for its life Thursday, and the Wildcats almost had their biggest victory of the season. Instead, the Golden Gales escaped 25-19, 23-25, 25-13, 21-25, 15-12 in the regular-season finale at Jimmy Allen Gymnasium.
“They always come through when we need them,” Newark senior libero Mariah Pethtel said of the Wildcats’ many young players. “I can’t ask for anybody better, especially with how young they are and inexperienced. Trust me, if they walked onto the court with me, I wouldn’t be able to tell they had never had any (experience).”
Newark, which was unable to repay each of the four Ohio Capital Conference-Ohio Division teams ahead of it, receives another chance at gaining revenge. The Wildcats visit Hilliard Davidson at 6 p.m. Tuesday to open Division I tournament play. Davidson swept a best-of-3 early in the season.
Newark (9-12, 6-8) appeared in danger of losing by sweep to second-place Lancaster (18-3, 12-2) for the second time. The Wildcats, however, rallied from 20-13 down in the second set, eventually scoring the final six points.
Newark got off the mat again after losing the third. The Wildcats took a 7-6 lead in the fourth on the second of back-to-back Tana Barrett blocks and never looked back. Barrett had seven blocks as she, twin sister Takia and Mikala Cook form a sophomore trio that shows plenty of promise at the net.
“Some of the younger girls are playing a little bit older,” Newark coach Doug Franz said. “I think we need to understand who we are and our identity. It is starting to show up a little bit.”
Mia Hammack, the Wildcats’ other senior, came alive in the fourth. She had six kills, including three straight at one stretch to push Newark to a 22-15 advantage, and an ace. She had three more kills in the fifth.
“You hit some adversity, and that is when you get to see what you are made of,” Franz said. “I thought those two seniors did a nice job. It has been enjoyable to watch our seniors push (the younger players) along. I can’t say enough about their leadership on the court.”
Hammack had a team-high 11 kills and 15 digs, and Cook added nine kills. Tori Carpenter had 26 assists, and Pethtel had 31 digs.
The Wildcats trailed 12-6 in the fifth before one more run. Takia Barrett’s block cut the deficit to 14-12 and excited the crowd, but Lancaster setter Kelsey Stockwell sneaked a tip over the net to catch Newark off guard for the final point.
“They think they walked in and owned the place,” Pethtel said. “I think we gave them a good run for their money.”