Lady Packers make history, advance to volleyball regionals

Published 1:44 pm Tuesday, October 31, 2023

By Matthew Hatfield

Contributing writer

For the first time ever, the Smithfield girls volleyball team has qualified for the regional playoffs.

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The Lady Packers, seeded third, defeated sixth-seeded Warhill 3-1 (26-24, 25-20, 15-25, 25-18) in Region 4A quarterfinal action on Oct. 30 to advance to a Nov. 2 semifinal match with Gloucester. 

SHS, 11-10, is enjoying a history-making season under first-year head coach Denero Tagaloa, who is thrilled with what his team is achieving.

“It means everything to these girls. They’re great players and a great group of young ladies. They’re really happy to make it this far. They’ve been waiting for their moment and their moment is now,” said Tagaloa, loving how much progress the program is already making under his direction. “I’m pretty stoked about it, but now we’ve set a high standard and we have to meet it again next year.”

Leading this year’s Smithfield squad are seniors Carsyn Diggs, an outside hitter, and Ceyali Higgs, a middle blocker.

“I can’t wait to see how far Diggs can go playing volleyball. She’s an all-around player with a great attitude,” Tagaloa said. “Every time she comes to practice she asks how my day is going and is always willing to hear feedback.”

Diggs and Higgs have a combined 249 kills of the team’s 431.  

“She’s not just a phenomenal player, but a wonderful human being as well,” Tagaloa noted about Higgs. “She’s one of the biggest contributors to the team on and off the court, plus she’s as a co-captain she is a big motivator.”

Junior Isabella Dow, another co-captain, is a major influence in setting up the plays.

What has Tagaloa learned about this group?

“The camaraderie between all 10 of them is something that really stands out.  They talk to each other on and off the court.  They’re always willing to help each other out,” he replied. “In the beginning, I told them they were ten individuals, but after a couple of games, I started to notice they became a team as they kept playing.  They are learning and talking to each other.  That’s a huge accomplishment for them.”

Earlier this month, there was a homecoming parade in Smithfield on Main Street and the team got to soak up the experience.

 “Pretty much everybody in the city was cheering. It was a great experience to see family and friends as well as the city supporting the athletes,” Tagaloa said. “This is a huge moment for the Lady Packers.  We really appreciate all the love and support.”