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Volleyball champs: Tuscarora shines in first trip to state final

Tuscarora players rejoice following a clutch rally in the third set to close out a straight-set win versus Princess Anne in the VHSL Class 5 state volleyball final.—Times-Mirror/Patrick Kane
Playing under the bright lights of the Siegel Center gymnasium at Virginia Commonwealth University for the first time, the Tuscarora Huskies proved ready for the big stage Nov. 18 in the VHSL Class 5 state volleyball championship match.

Tuscarora swept reigning champion Princess Anne 25-22, 25-19, 27-25 to hoist its first state championship trophy.

Tuscarora head coach John Senchak spoke passionately about his players following the straight-set victory.

"I live and die by these Huskies. These girls are very resilient. They are modern warriors, these girls just keep coming. I'm very proud of them."

Tuscarora's fortitude was in full effect during the third set. Trailing 23-18, the Huskies staved off three set points during a 9-2 surge to close out the set and the match.

"They bend but they don't break," Senchak said of his players. "We were down late in the third and like so many times this season, they will not fold."

Princess Anne head coach Craig Doreen praised Tuscarora's ability to turn the tide in that final set. Princess Anne defeated Tuscarora in the 2016 semifinals on its way to the state crown.

"Tuscarora came back and didn't fold. I thought their outsides [Sarah Pearsall and Anne Louise Seekford] did a great job. They had some timely kills. Their setters did a good job getting them the ball."

Described as "terminators" by Princess Anne players after the match, Seekford and Pearsall, both seniors, combined for 28 kills and five blocks.

"We have the experience of playing club and high school together," Pearsall said. "We know each other well and we know each other's strengths."

Junior Samantha Rodriquez set up the big hitters with 38 assists. Juniors Ashton Dunnigan and Sian Seeger, and senior Erin Baroody each slammed five kills for the Huskies.

Senior libero Gabriela Santos led the charge defensively with 15 digs. Sophomore Meghan Dunnigan added seven digs.

"[Gabriela] is the rock of our team. Our libero is lights out good," Senchak said. "We win with defense ... not to take anything away from our two great hitters."

After guiding Tuscarora to a state crown in just his second season with the Huskies, Senchak deflected praise to his players, including the graduated seniors from the 2016 team that helped the program progress to this level.

"We are very much about the coach-player relationship. We build relationships of trust," Senchak said. "From the first time we met, they understand that the players are the focus of our program, coaches are secondary to that."

Photos by Patrick Kane


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