TOLEDO — For its last game before Regionals, Newton swept through a young Cumberland team in two sets on Thursday and built insurmountable leads in both sets.
Hannah Litzelman's nine kills led the Eagles in the win that makes them 10-1 in the Little Illini Conference to end the regular season.
The Eagles built leads of 14-7 in each set against Cumberland, stretching the first-set lead to 20-13 and the second-set lead to 23-10 before winning 25-14 and 25-12.
Andrea Cartright's seven kills and Taylor Johnson's five kills also paced the Eagles as their offense put Cumberland's defense on its heels.
“I feel like to begin the year we were the team that was just taking it, playing defense, which is great because you want to keep the ball off the floor, but there comes a time when you want to be the aggressor and want to be the team that's hitting,” Newton head coach Jill Kistner.
Kistner said her team has worked a lot on setting up its hitters and showed improvement in that area on Thursday, led by Gabby Zerrusen's 13 assists.
Newton, which is the top seed in at the Class 2A Casey-Westfield Regional next week, finished each set strong by scoring eight of the last nine points in the first set and eight of the last ten points in the second.
Kistner said her team's consistency showed up against Cumberland, after what she said was a roller coaster season, finishing 23-12 overall.
She said her team did a good job matching the effort of the Pirates' young team that features 10 underclassmen.
“They have a lot of talent, but they're just young,” Kistner said. “They just go out and play hard all the time. I tried explaining to my seniors that you have to go out and play the same. Every ball is a big ball. You just have to play every point like it's the most important.”
Litzelman, who led the team in kills, led the team with two blocks in the game, while Cartright led the team with nine digs.
Newton is the top seed in the Casey Regional and will await the winner of the Marshall vs. Red Hill game on Monday. The Eagles will play on Tuesday an potentially play the winner of a game between second-seeded Casey-Westfield and Robinson or Lawrenceville.
Kistner said her team will have to make sure it stays consistent heading into regional action next week.
“When we're good, we're good and bad when we're bad, so we're trying to figure that out,” Kistner said. “We'll have some teams out to get us, being the one seed. They want us.”
Alex McNamee can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Newton 25 25
Cumberland 14 12
Newton: Koebele (2 aces, 1 kill, 7 assists, 3 digs), Zerrusen (1 ace, 13 assists), Cartright (1 ace, 7 kills, 9 digs), Sandschafer (1 ace, 4 digs), Wyatt (1 ace, 2 kills, 1 block), Litzelman (9 kills, 2 blocks), T Johnson (5 kills, 1 block), Birch (1 assist), E Johnson (6 digs)