Newberry Academy’s run of state championships continued Monday night.
The Newberry Academy volleyball team won its straight SCISA Class A championship with a 3-1 win over region foe Wardlaw in front a packed gymnasium at Hammond School.
It is the third state championship in the past year for the girls’ athletics teams. Newberry Academy won the volleyball and basketball championships a year ago.
And with a strong nucleus back including five seniors, the Eagles are halfway to back-to-back titles.
“It’s honestly been a dream come true,” Newberry Academy senior Kesley Cheeks said. “We (seniors) have grown up together and have always been like a family. At Newberry Academy, the school is so small and we are so close and that makes us play so well together because we know our strengths and weaknesses and we can feed off that.”
Newberry Academy coach Travis Gilliam credited the team’s five seniors which included Cheeks, Daja Taylor, Caroline Senn, Allison Joyner and Madison Rivers for guiding the team in a season full of ups and downs.
“They have pushed us through,” Gilliam said of the seniors. “It is special to see them do this two times.”
The Eagles set their eyes on repeating back in March. The school doesn’t have a softball team so Gilliam said the volleyball team began their offseason workouts then.
NAs faced some challenges in their second straight championship. They battled through injuries and finished tied for second in their region behind Laurens Academy.
Then in Saturday’s double-elimination portion of the tournament, Newberry trailed Patrick Henry in both sets of the semifinal match before coming back to win.
“I definitely almost cried five times during that match,” Cheeks said. “It was a wave of emotion. But we just pushed through and won and got us back here.”
Cheeks finished with a team-high 29 kills and Madison Rivers had 10. Khloe Cheeks led the Eagles with 44 assists.
Newberry won the first two sets, 25-21, 25-23, and almost ended it with a sweep. The Eagles trailed 22-16 in the third but seven of the next eight points to tie it at 23. But Wardlaw won the final two points to force a fourth set, 25-23.
It was tied 10-10 in the fourth set before Newberry won eight of the next 10 points and went on to win it, 25-19.
Eagles students stormed the court in celebration after the Wardlaw player hit the ball into the net for the final point of the match.
“It is hard winning a state championship but winning two is even tougher,” Gilliam said. “I am so proud of this team.”