NORMAL — Down but not yet out, the Hartsburg-Emden High School volleyball team gathered all of the pluck and moxie in its arsenal to stage a late match rally.

Opponent Newark, after dominating the first set and riding high with a comfortable lead in the second, failed to fold at the end and held off the surge for a 25-16, 25-23 win in the championship match of the Class 1A State Tournament on Saturday at Redbird Arena.

"We had to withstand a couple of runs in set two but, man, there are no words to describe how proud I am of this team and how excited I am," said Newark coach Tonya Grayson, who saw her Norsemen win their 40th match of the season against two losses and their first state title in school history.

Hartem, making its third state title-game appearance in 12 years, ended at 36-5.

"I thought we had a great game, it just wasn't good enough," said Hartem coach Jennifer Hayes, who mentored the Stags to a Class A state championship in 2006 and a runner-up 1A finish in 2014. "I don't think Newark made many mistakes. They just had a solid game."

The Norsemen were particularly stout and solid in the opening set, trailing just once early before steadily pulling away from a 5-5 tie.

"These girls went on and took this match like nobody's business," Grayson said. "Talk about stepping up on a big stage, in the biggest moment, calm, cool and collected, all about business and just (putting) a smackdown on them in set one."

Sophomore sensation Madi Malone led the Norsemen with 11 kills. Megan Williams also did much of the heavy lifting at the net, adding nine kills along with a solo block and a pair of blocking assists.

It was Newark's blocking and defense that received the most plaudits with the Norsemen keyed on slowing Hartem standout Anna Hayes, the coach's daughter and a University of Memphis recruit.

The Hartem senior led the Stags with nine kills.

"Our biggest goal was to get a good block because (Anna Hayes) is a powerhouse and we knew that," said Newark middle blocker Mattie Chapman, who assisted on a pair of the Norsemen's five blocks.

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What wasn't stopped or altered at the net was dug out by the Newark backcourt, led by the 17 digs of Meggie Scott.

"I never knew Meggie would have that great of a game," Chapman said. "If we missed the block, no worry, she'll dig it up."

"They've got some tall girls and we knew we would have to run a flawless offense in order to get around them," Jennifer Hayes said. "They couldn't shut us down, they just slowed us down.

"I thought we got our swings and I thought we started running things the way we were supposed to, they just had more weapons."

The swings of sophomore Grace Beekman helped lead Hartem's late charge. Beekman had eight kills, 11 assists and 10 digs. Teammate Lexi Barry had 13 digs.

"I didn't think there was anything we did wrong," Jennifer Hayes said. "I didn't think there was anything that we didn't come up or show up. I just think Newark played hard. I think that being here last year really was a big deal to be able to be on the floor and have that experience."

Newark entered this year's finals focused on improving on last year's fourth-place finish.

"Last year I remember sitting here saying it was my worst game of the year," said Malone. "Now I can say that we won the state championship."

St. Teresa takes third: Caleigh Craft had six kills as Decatur St. Teresa downed Grayville, 25-20, 25-15 in the third-place match. Cami Lobb had 17 assists and Abby Robinson 11 digs for St. Teresa (29-11).

Grayville (27-11) was led by Sidney Foster's seven kills.

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Contact Bruce Yentes at (309) 820-3391. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_yentes


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