By BRYAN URBACH
CHAPEL HILL — For the first time in a long time, the Lady Panthers are headed to Regionals in volleyball after a 3-1 victory against New Diana on Tuesday.
The teams fought for every point during the match in Chapel Hill, with the Lady Panthers coming away with the match with set scores of 25-23, 25-27, 25-21 and 25-16.
Westwood’s front line of players, including Diamond Dewberry, MiKayla Benson and Courtney Stanhope dominated the entire first match with a combined 14 kills among them.
“That was one of our main focuses was to use our power up front,” said Westwood coach Janae Evans. “We want to utilize our offense and we hoped our power would be successful and it was. They did an excellent job of doing what I asked them to do, so I’m just very proud of them.”
Westwood saw a bit of trouble in the second set, with a few errors bringing the Lady Panthers down to 20-12 at one point in the set, after having led 10-8. The team then switched gears, going on a 12-2 run which was short-lived as New Diana took the set 27-25 and the match headed to a third set.
In the third set, this time Westwood had the big lead at 18-12 before New Diana fought hard to make it 18-16 in favor of the Lady Panthers. Westwood eventually put the game out of reach by outscoring the Lady Eagles 7-5 to win the set 25-21.
Westwood’s Neeli Hardison served six-straight points for the Lady Panthers to start off the fourth set, with the Panthers going on to win the set 25-16.
“It was huge for her to come out and do that,” Evans said. “We talked to everyone about how we needed to get as many points as we could when we were serving and we did just that. Neeli did a great job of that and the rest of the girls did, too.”
For Westwood, their next game is projected to be on Friday night for Regionals. Evans said she is proud of her team for getting this far, but knows that the job isn’t done yet.
“We’re excited to be heading to the Regional Tournament,” Evans said. “This is the first time as far as I know that Westwood has made it that far. It’s extremely exciting, and I know these girls are proud to do what they just did. It’s just very exciting for us.”