It certainly did for Clay on Tuesday, as the quartet of Katie Keaton, Megan Burchett, Stephanie Curley and Chelsie Thomas combined for 55 of the team's 75 points as the Lady Panthers topped SOC I rival Notre Dame 26-24, 25-13 and 25-18 to open their season with a win. Clay also had 17 kills from Cami Groves on the night.
“I always tell the girls, ‘You always want to make as few mistakes as possible,'” said Clay coach Jill Tipton. “And with our serving, we never want to give a team a point on the serve. We always want to make sure that our serves stay in the court and wait for the other team to make the mistakes.”
Keaton led the way in scoring for Clay with 16 points. Burchett added 15, and Curley and Thomas each had 12. Combined with Groves' 17 kills and four more by Katie Wheeler, Clay was able to overcome an early deficit to take the match.
“Notre Dame is a big rivalry for us,” said Groves. “I felt I did good tonight. I had to be there for my teammates, because I knew that my teammates were going to be there for me.”
“This is Groves' third year playing varsity, and as a junior, I think her play is becoming smarter,” said Tipton. “She is not just going up to the net, swinging to kill the ball. She is actually playing smarter and putting the ball where it needs to be to get us points.”
The game was the Lady Titans' second of the season, and the early jump-start seemed to help Notre Dame, as the team raced out to a 15-6 advantage midway through the first game. After trading points the next few points to keeping the Lady Titans in the lead 16-8, Clay would go on a run of its own, closing the gap to 16-15 before Notre Dame would score again to lead 17-15.
It would be the last time the Lady Titans would take the lead in the game, as Clay jumped out to a 21-17 advantage of its own. The teams were tied at 24 apiece late in the game, but the Lady Panthers scored the final two points to take a 1-0 lead. The next two games were close in the beginning, but the combination of strong serving and net play helped Clay pull away to win in three games.
Despite the loss, Lady Titans coach Nancy Russell was pleased with her team's performance, especially the court coverage.
“Our girls have a lot of heart, and I think they work well together as a team,” she said. “They played with a lot of hustle tonight.”
Notre Dame had its own strong service play on Tuesday with seven aces - four by Liz Stevens, two by Kristen Clausing and one by Chrissy Glockner. Stevens added three kills, Clausing had three kills and a block and Glockner had eight assists and two kills. Jeanne Estep had five kills and a block and Kate Sand had two kills, three assists and a block.
JOSH HICKLE can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 241
Records - Clay 1-0 (1-0), Notre Dame 0-2 (0-1).