Girls volleyball: Newark survives marathon against Aurora Christian

Over the holiday weekend, Newark senior volleyball standouts Kiara Wesseh and Lauren Ulrich helped guide the Norsemen to third place at the Manteno tournament, in which both were named to the all-tourney squad as Newark suffered its only loss of the season in a three-set thriller to highly touted Sherrard.

Wesseh, Ulrich and the Norsemen faced another big three-set challenge Tuesday evening but came away a winner this time around after an intense 25-17, 32-34, 25-17 victory over a very talented squad from Aurora Christian at Newark where the classmates shined once again.

"I think the tournament over the weekend prepared us for tonight and we fought through a very tough loss in the second set to win," Wesseh said. "Lauren and I connected very well and we were able to pull this one out."

Wesseh pounded down 19 kills while all-state setter Ulrich dished up 34 assists as Newark (9-1) gutted out a hard-fought triumph to rebound from its first defeat.

"We needed to bounce back with a quality win like this and I knew we could," Ulrich said. "Aurora Christian is a very solid volleyball team and we were able to get past the second set loss and gain some new momentum moving forward this week."

The Norsemen also received quality performances from juniors Adrianna Larson and Addison Ness who hammered down 11 and five kills respectively while senior Dani Peshia scooped up 11 digs.

"We played very well over the weekend and lost to a high-quality Sherrard team in three sets so tonight was important to be able to fight out a tough match on our home court," Newark coach P.J. McKinney said. "Kiara and Lauren really led the way just as they did at Manteno and I'm proud of all the girls for finding a way to win a very competitive game against a solid team from Aurora Christian."

The Eagles (5-3) received a team-best eight kills from junior Madalynn Johnson, seven off the hands of sophomore Hope Wagner along with five apiece from senior Jada Haymon and sophomore Breanna Hard.

"Give credit to Newark because they have a phenomenal hitter (Wesseh) and a great setter (Ulrich) and those two really were outstanding tonight," Aurora Christian coach Mayra Johnson said. "We gave it all we had especially in the second set. Unfortunately we just couldn't overcome all of their firepower. Newark's a very good volleyball team."

The Norsemen took the lead early in game one and raced out to a 23-13 lead before Wesseh eventually recorded her sixth kill of the match on set point off of a deftly placed assist from Ulrich.

"We were pretty comfortable in the first game and it felt good to hit that winner after a great set from Lauren," Wesseh said. "But the second game was a different story for sure."

That's when Aurora Christian led 24-21 before Newark was able to rally and earn five tries at match point before the Eagles put set two away after a left-side dagger from Wagner that forced a third and deciding game.

The Norsemen would creep away slowly from there before they'd turn a slim 18-16 advantage into a 7-1 run down the stretch as Larson pounded down a left-side kill on match point off another great set from Ulrich.

"It was a great way to end a great match and I'm so proud of our team," Ulrich said. "But we've got a lot more to accomplish and look forward to."

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