PDT Sports Editor
As the regular season concludes, the Notre Dame Titans are 17-3 overall and 10-2 in SOC I play with two contests remaining before the postseason.
Those two matches will be Tuesday at Symmes Valley and Thursday when they host Eastern.
Notre Dame suffered its third loss Thursday as Clay won a straight sets match against the Titans.
“We needed to be playing offense, playing our game,” Notre Dame coach Lisa Smith said. “We were on defense most of the night.”
Pierron, Hoover and Kayser had solid performances despite the loss. Pierron had three blocks, eight kills and 10 digs. Hoover recorded 12 digs to go along with 17 assists while Kayser chipped in with eight kills.
A 16-kill performance from Annie Hopkins as well as 39 assists and an eight point effort from Gabby Hickman helped visiting Clay earn the victory.
The Panthers evened the series at a win a piece against their SOC I rival.
Notre Dame’s other two losses came at the hands of Eastern and Piketon.
The Titans are second in the SOC I as the Eagles have locked up the conference crown. Notre Dame has a mixture of youth and experience, which has served the team well this season.
“We have four returning starters from last year, which is one of the biggest strengths of our team,” Smith said.
Emma Gohmann and Madi Phillips are returning seniors while Maggie Hoover and Brooke Pierron are junior starters. Joining the upperclassmen are Emma Monroe and Hagen Schaefer who both play major roles as freshman.
“Their overall athleticism on the court helps our team tremendously,” Smith said. “They have the ability to contribute early and we count on them.”
Phillips has received high praise for her speed and athletic ability from Smith.
“Madi is extremly fast,” Smith said. “She could cover the entire baseline by herself if we wanted her too.”
Rounding out the starting unit is sophomore Ragen Kayser who has played a vital role in Notre Dame’s success.
“She has been a nice surprise for us,” Smith said. “She has scored a lot of points and is very important to the team.”
Most successful teams also have a role player that doesn’t seek the publicity but is willing to do the dirty work. For Notre Dame, that player is senior Keirstin Angelos.
“Keirstin Angelos is a setter but we count on her to step on the floor and play multiple positions at a moments notice,” Smith said.
Aside from experience and athleticism, Smith attributes team chemistry as a vital aspect to the Titans’ triumphs this season.
“The whole team gets along really well, which helps them on the court,” Smith said.
According to Smith, team chemistry begins at the top with the leadership of her four upperclassmen, who Smith defines as “tremendous” leaders.
“Emma and Madi are our senior leaders who have the ability to rally the entire team with their emotions,” Smith said. “They are fiery competitors and the team really responds to their leadership.”
Pierron and Hoover are also tone setters for the Titans but in a different sort of way.
“Brooke is more of a spiritual leader,” Smith said. “Maggie and Brooke share in the responsibility of leading the team in the pregame prayer. They are both solid players on the court but they are also high character women off the court. If any issues arise, I have full confidence in their judgment to make the right decision. They are very grounded and the other kids look up to them.”
Gohmann leads the Titans on the court with her serving prowess. Gohmann has served 337 times, which has resulted in a 97 percent serving rate while notching 101 aces. Thirty percent of Gohmann’s serves result in aces for Notre Dame. The Titans have won 256 points off of Gohmann’s serves.
“Her serving has been huge for us,” Smith said. “She doesn’t just use one serve. She leaves the other team wondering where the ball is going to go.”
Aside from Gohmann, Pierron has had the biggest offensive impact for Notre Dame. Pierron has 200 kills in 549 attempts resulting in a 36 percent kill ratio, which leads the team.
Pierron also leads the Titans defensively with 151 digs or 2.8 digs per game. Maggie Hoover is tied with Phillips for second on Notre Dame with 2.6 digs per contest.
“I think (Pierron and Hoover) added a lot to their game the last few years,” Smith said. “I think you have to play a lot and see a lot of balls come your way before you can truly learn the game. Hopefully they will be able to add some diversity next year. If they add more sets to their game, it should allow them to grow and become more well-rounded players.”
Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 298, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Chris on Twitter@crslone.