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Top-seeded Cardinal Newman upset in NCS volleyball semifinals

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Cardinal Newman High School’s top-seeded volleyball team lost in the North Coast Section playoffs Wednesday night as Head-Royce Prep outplayed the Cardinals on their own court in a 3-1 semifinal defeat.

“We knew (Head-Royce) were good and that they were going to be ready to play. I had talked to a couple coaches that had played them who said they’re very well coached and very disciplined and that they will bring it, which they did absolutely, 100%,” Cardinals head coach Jeff Nielson said.

Newman (26-6 overall, 9-1 North Bay League-Oak Division) entered the North Coast Section Division 4 tournament with the No. 1 seed after finishing first in league play.

Going into Wednesday night’s match against No. 4 Head-Royce (22-2 overall, 12-0 Bay Counties-East League), the Cardinals were coming off four straight wins — including Gateway High School of San Francisco forfeiting due to the Kincade fire in Newman’s first-round matchup.

But that streak for the Cardinals also includes Saturday’s quarterfinal victory over Arcata, which Newman won 25-20, 25-19 and 26-24 after a week of not practicing.

After the Jayhawks handily won the first two games against the Cardinals Wednesday night, Newman fought back with a dominating win in Game 3. But in Game 4, Head-Royce took back control with a crushing 25-13 win to seal the 3-1 victory and advance to the division final.

“We did not play well. They served us really tough and we didn’t respond,” Nielson said.

Head-Royce started strong with a 12-6 run after a few mistakes from Newman gave the Jayhawks some easy points.

Thanks to some good work at the net from the Cardinals’ Cami Loxley and some strong returns from Kimi Waller, Newman began mounting a comeback.

But the Head-Royce defense held strong and the Jayhawks took Game 1, 25-17.

The Cardinals came out strong to take the early lead in Game 2 but Head-Royce fought its way back to retake the lead, up 15-10.

The Jayhawks looked in control and despite comeback attempts from the Cardinals late in Game 2, Head-Royce used its defense and some good striking to defeat Newman 25-20.

The Cardinals again took an early lead in Game 3, going up 18-7 following some good serves by Waller and Caroline Courier and big plays at the net from Cassie Taylor.

Newman dominated the rest of the set to win Game 3, 25-13, on a kill from Waller, and force a fourth game.

The Cardinals clearly had the momentum and went up 6-2 at the start of Game 4.

But the Jayhawks fought their way back with a 14-3 run and took a 16-9 lead.

Head-Royce continued to find all-around success on offense and defense and rode the momentum to a 25-13 victory in the deciding set.

“What’s great is that we battled. The girls play really hard; there is no issue with the effort that they put forward. They come to play and they’re a great group of young ladies. I think that we just didn’t show our best tonight,” Nielson said.

Newman’s Loxley finished the match leading the team in kills with 11 to go along with her two aces. Waller finished with 20 assists, nine kills and five service aces, and Taylor ended up with 22 digs along with eight kills.

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