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Newton volleyball rolls into 5A state with No. 1 seed

Published Oct. 22 at 10:19 p.m. | Last updated Oct. 22 at 10:20 p.m.

When the Newton volleyball team brings the right kind of energy to its matches, it has been very difficult to beat.

The problem, at least lately, has been Newton coming up empty in its search for that consistent energy.

Consider it solved on Saturday night at the Class 5A sub-state in Andover, as Newton powered through Salina South, 25-14, 25-14, and then Kapaun Mount Carmel, 25-20, 25-17, to advance to the Class 5A tournament Friday in Topeka.

Every point in the championship match against Kapaun was emphatically celebrated and Newton created its own energy to earn the victory in straight sets, which guaranteed the Railers (38-4) the No. 1 seed in Topeka.

“We just have not played with a lot of energy lately, but we really brought it tonight,” Newton junior Taylor Antonowich said. “That’s what gives us these great plays and makes us able to put these balls down. We really play well when we have that energy going.”

Newton needed the boost in the first set against Kapaun, the City League champion, as the Crusaders elevated their level of play. Kapaun was coming off an emotional, three-set victory over Valley Center, 22-25, 25-17, 25-12 in the semifinals.

After Kapaun rallied to tie the score at 19, Newton responded with a block from Kailey Harris that sparked a 6-0 run for the Railers to close out the set on a Megan Akers kill.

Once Newton absorbed Kapaun’s best shot, the Railers’ length at the net overwhelmed in the second set. Emily Regier has the height, at 6-foot, and the vertical to present a lot of challenges for the opposition at the net, which allows Newton’s back row to cut down even more angles for hitters.

“And then whenever our defense gets a dig, our front row seems to put it down right after that,” said Akers, who finished with a team-high 11 digs against Kapaun. “That really gives us a lot of momentum.”

Antonowich (team-high 12 kills against Kapaun) carried the offense in the second set that Newton was always in control of, but the Railers closed out their victory with kills from Regier, Kailey Harris, Kyndal Bacon, Maggie Remsberg, and DesiRay Kernal.

It was a showcase of just how balanced this Newton attack can be and why the team views itself worthy of the No. 1 seed a contender status in Topeka.

“This is so amazing,” Akers said. “I had to hold some tears back because it was just so exciting.”

This was their goal at the start of the season, but now they’ve realized a larger one: challenging for a state championship.

“We knew from the beginning we would be good, but we didn’t know that we would be this good,” Antonowich said.

“We’re No. 1 in the state right now and it’s the best feeling ever.”

Taylor Eldridge: 316-268-6270, @vkeldridge

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