HUTCHINSON, Kan. – For the first time in program history, the Seward County volleyball team has reached the NJCAA National Tournament Semifinals after winning their matches against Snow (25-10, 25-16, 26-24) and Polk State (25-20, 22-25, 25-18, 21-25, 16-14).
(6) SEWARD COUNTY VS (11) SNOW
The Lady Saints used an absolutely dominating first set to flex their muscle against the 11-seed Snow College. They won eight of the first ten points of the set. Just a few points later, Seward was able to push their lead to double-digits with a score of 15-5 after a Thais Vieira kill. Still leading by ten, Seward used a 6-1 run to end the set, winning 25-10 with an Esmadar Tavares kill.
The second began similarly to the first, as Seward opened up on a 7-3 run, capped off with a Giovanna Tapigliani kill. Unlike the first set, the Badgers kept the Lady Saints from extending their lead to double-digits. Leading by five late in the set, Seward used a 4-0 run to take a 21-12 advantage. The Badgers prevented another large Seward run, but it was too little, too late as Seward took a two-set advantage with a 25-16 win.
The Badgers took their first lead of the match to start set three, winning the opening point after a call reversal. Snow pushed their lead to 4-1 before the Lady Saints tied it at four with two Tapigliani kills. The Badgers quickly pushed their lead back to three, however. Trailing by four, the Lady Saints used a 4-0 run off two Djuly Schmorantz kills to tie the set, but the Badgers kept Seward from over taking them, answering with three straight points. It wasn't until the Lady Saints were trailing 24-21 that they used an unexpected comeback fueled by Laura De Pra's serving to win 26-24 and sweep the Badgers.
Seward was led offensively by Tapigliani (11 kills) and Schmorantz (10 kills), who both finished with double-digit kills. De Pra paced Seward with 27 assists. Defensively, Vieira led Seward with six blocks, while Luz Sierra came away with three.
(6) SEWARD COUNTY VS (3) POLK STATE
The Lady Saints started out sluggish to begin the set, but Djuly Schmorantz quickly energized the entire squad as she unleased a flurry of kills. In just one set, Schmorantz came away with 10 kills and a service ace to finish with 11 points in the first set. Seward had to overcome a 6-2 deficit to begin the set, but once they got rolling, there was no stopping them, as they went on to win the first set 25-20 with a Thais Vieira kill.
The roles were reversed in set two between the teams. After a tight beginning of the set, the Lady Saints pulled ahead 19-11. That was the turning point of the set as the Eagles went on a 14-3 run to end the set, winning 25-22 and tying the match at one set each.
With both teams settled down, Seward held a 6-4 lead through the first ten points after a Laura De Pra tip. The Seward lead increased to five, but a 5-2 run by Polk put the score at 16-14. Still holding a two point lead a few points later, the Lady Saints used a 7-2 run to end the set, winning 25-18 and taking a two set to one advantage.
The fourth set started even, with the scored tied at eight apiece, but it quickly got out of hand as the Eagles went on a 9-0 run before the Lady Saints were able to respond. Passing errors became a problem during the run. Seward to cut the lead to two points, but the damage had already been done. Polk State won the fourth set 25-21 to force a decisive fifth set.
The fifth set was all you'd except from playoff volleyball. After Seward took an 8-5 lead to switch sides, the Eagles battled back to tie the set at 11, forcing a Seward timeout. The Eagles scored two more to make it 13-11 and force a Seward timeout. With the season on the line, the Lady Saints battled to tie the set at 14 before finishing with back-to-back kills by Schmorantz to win the set 16-14 and win the match 3-2.
Seward was led by the three headed monster of Djuly Schmorantz, Giovanna Tapigliani and Luz Sierra. Schmorantz (22 kills) and Tapigliani (20 kills) each reached twenty kills, while Sierra finished with 17 kills.
Three Lady Saints finished with a double-double. Schmorantz added 16 digs, while Tapigliani added 15 digs to their kill totals, while Laura de Pra finished with 53 assists and a team-high 23 digs.
With the win, Seward advances to the semifinals of the NJCAA National Tournament where they will take on the College of Southern Idaho at 6:30 pm in the Hutchinson Sports Arena.