SEFFNER — The Newsome volleyball team had just lost a fourth set that lasted 60 points and played out for the Wolves in elation and pain.
Heading into their Class 5A region semifinal winless against Armwood in two previous meetings, the Wolves blew a 2-1 games lead. One of their senior captains, middle blocker Hillary Byrd, whose main job was to shadow the county's kill leader, Armwood's Emilee Taylor, winced around the court, barely able to walk after twisting her left knee.
In a match of sweeping momentum, Armwood had it all — plus the history over the Wolves. First-year Newsome coach Kate Correa caught her team scoreboard watching. She turned their eyes to the court.
And they came back seeing victory — and making history.
The Wolves dispatched their district nemesis 25-15, 25-14, 20-25, 29-31, 15-8, earning the first region final berth in school history. Newsome (17-6) faces Lakeland on Saturday with a trip to the state tourney on the line.
"I know they weren't ready to give up," said Correa, a former standout at Tampa Prep. "Before this match even started, you knew they wanted to come back with a W."
Newsome's plan was simple: try to limit Taylor, who led the county with 6.0 kills a game. And the Wolves stifled Taylor's attempts from both the front and back rows in winning the first two games.
Armwood (16-2) broke through in Game 3, winning final five points. In the fourth game, Newsome rallied from a 14-4 deficit and had match point twice, but couldn't close the Hawks out.
"I never felt like we had it in the bag," Armwood coach Mike Wyatt said. "I knew it was going to be a scrap until the end."
Byrd popped two Advil and remained in the game, got a big block on Taylor and put away a key ball at the net in the decisive set. The Wolves were led by outside hitter Lauren Zellmer, who tallied four of her 19 kills in Game 5.
"There was no way we were letting down in that fifth game," said Byrd, who added nine kills and four blocks. "I think the pressure kind of puts it on us. We tend to do that to ourselves."
Taylor finished with 35 kills.