Madison Sampson, New Diana Sweep Sabine in Class 2A Region III Volleyball Quarterfinal
LONGVIEW -- New Diana coach Lisa Rockhill wondered when junior Madison Sampson was going to break out of her shell. After Monday, she no longer has to wonder.
The New Diana Lady Eagles swept the Sabine Lady Cardinals 26-24, 25-14, 25-20 in a Class 2A Region III volleyball quarterfinal at LeTourneau University's Solheim Arena. The Lady Eagles (33-8) are headed to the Region III tournament starting Friday at Lobo Coliseum in Longview and face the winner of Tuesday's Lexington vs. Centerville contest.
Courtney Rogers had 18 kills and four aces for New Diana, while Cheyenne Spell add nine kills, five assists, 15 digs, and two aces. But it was the assertiveness of Sampson, the setter, who made play after play for New Diana that proved invaluable.
"The girls did a good job of digging in after we got off to a slow start," Rockhill said. "But when we relaxed, and went on the attack, we did a much better job."
Down 22-21 to Sabine in the first set, Sampson dove into the stands for a point-saving dig. New Diana never trailed the remainder of the night. A Spell ace and a Sampson-to-Rogers assist-to-kill gave New Diana the first-set victory, 26-24.
Sabine (38-6) started strong, leading 7-2, but the continued hustle and striking power of the Lady Eagles proved too much. Sabine led 18-11, but the Sampson-to-Rogers connection proved lethal, producing three kills to erase Sabine's early lead.
Sampson had one kill, 18 assists, 15 digs, and three aces.
"(Sampson) has always had it in her. I think she's battled herself more than her ability," Rockhill said. "I think she just needed some tight situations to learn about herself. She has the ability to be the setter we saw tonight. She's grown as a player this year, not only in her skill, but in her confidence level."
"I can't stress enough how good it feels to win, playing your game," Sampson said. "We really want to go to state. That's everything to us."
Up 13-11 in the second set, New Diana staged a 12-3 run highlighted by Sampson serving two consecutive aces. Sampson had seven assists in the second stanza as the Lady Eagles took a 2-0 match lead.
Sabine didn't quit in the third set. Junior middle blocker Haley Stuart got warmed up, tallying four kills and two blocks. But Rockhill's Lady Eagles responded. Two Rogers' kills closed out the scoring, and the net-minding of Jessica Hampton and Kimmy Hendricks proved too much for District 18-2A champion Sabine. Hampton and Hendricks combined for six kills and six blocks.
Senior twin sisters Kylie and Jordan Baker led Sabine. Jordan Baker had four kills, seven blocks, and three assists, while Kylie Baker added four kills, three blocks, and two aces.
"These girls mean just about everything to me, they're just like my own kids. I felt like if we could have got that first game out of the way, won the first set, it may have been a different situation," said Sabine coach Rickey Hammontree. "The second game was like we weren't in the gym, then the third game we got down. We made a late run at the end, but it just wasn't enough."