PORTSMOUTH — The Notre Dame Lady Titans faced what could be argued as their toughest opponent of the 2016 season Monday evening at Notre Dame High School in Portsmouth, Ohio, the Unioto Lady Shermans. When facing a tough opponent, tough losses can occur, which was the fate of the Lady Titans Monday evening.
The Unioto Lady Shermans (14-2, 7-1) handed the Notre Dame Lady Titans their first loss of the 2016 volleyball season with a straight set vicotry, 25-16, 25-16 and 25-21.
“We prepared a lot for this match and it was just one of those games where we came out and couldn’t execute,” Notre Dame volleyball coach Kelsey Glockner said. “Those are probably the hardest things because the girls work really, really hard and it was one of those games where we didn’t come together and weren’t able to execute the game plan.”
Notre Dame (13-1, 7-0) entered the match with an unblemished record. Not only had the Lady Titans yet to lose a match this year, but they had also yet to lose a set. Notre Dame had an immense amount of momentum rolling into Monday’s encounter with the Lady Shermans, however, that momentum suddenly came to a standstill.
The match started off in Notre Dame’s favor, with the Lady Titans striking first and getting the first scores of the game. They held a tight lead over the Lady Shermans for the first part of the first set, including a 9-6 lead at one point.
From the point of the 9-6 lead held by Notre Dame, Unioto began to strike with much more aggression than in the opening moments of the first set, a trend that would contine for the Lady Shermans for the remainder of the match.
Unioto tied the first set 9-9 and then eventually took a brief lead 11-10. After that, the set was tied again, this time by Notre Dame, 11-11.
From there it was no turning back for the Lady Shermans. Unioto went on a six-point run to take a 17-11 lead. They would then add another seven points while only allowing three points to Notre Dame.
Unioto held a 24-14 advantage over Notre Dame, but faced an uprising from the Lady Titans, who refused to easily allow Unioto its set point.
The Lady Titans would gain two more points before ultimately losing the first set — their first loss of a set in the season — 25-16.
After a short break, the second set began and played out much like the first set. Notre Dame struck first and took a 3-1 lead over Unioto. Then, the Lady Shermans came back to tie the set 3-3.
After the tie, Unioto again pulled ahead of Notre Dame, leading 20-9 at one point in the set.
Just as before, the Lady Titans stepped-up and played with more intensity and focus as they were backed against a wall by the Lady Shermans. Facing a 23-14 deficit in the second half, Notre Dame fought off — for a period of time — the advancing Lady Shermans, who eventually took the set, 25-16.
The most contested set of the evening came in the match’s final set, the third. Unlike the first two sets, Unioto was first to score and eventually took a 4-1 lead over Notre Dame.
Trailing 12-8 in the third set the Lady Titans mounted a comeback to tie the set 13-13, one of six ties in the set.
Notre Dame continued to keep the third set close, as they forced six ties, at 13-13, 14-14, 15-15, 16-16, 17-17 and lastly, 18-18.
Unioto then took a 21-18 lead to create some distance between the two teams.
Notre Dame followed by scoring the next point in the set — fighting for survival in the match — cutting Unioto’s lead to 21-19.
The Lady Shermans responded with another pair of scores to take a 23-19 lead and then a 24-20 lead.
Notre Dame again stopped the Lady Shermans for awhile, but eventually fell to Unioto in the third and final set, 25-21.
“Unioto has a really fast offense and I think we struggled getting into defense based upon hitting and once that started happening Unioto took the momentum and we just really struggled to get it back,” Glockner said. “We talk about, all the time, there’s wins and learns. We don’t really call them wins and losses. This is definitely a huge learn for us.”
The Lady Titans entered the match ranked eighth in the OHSAA Division IV standings, along with an overall ranking of 68 in the state by maxpreps.com.
Glockner and the Lady Titans will immediately turn their attention to their upcoming matches, including an SOC I matchup against the Western Lady Indians Thursday, September 29.
“(We) need to get back in the gym and keep working hard,” Glockner said. “These girls work really hard. That’s not something I struggle with as a coach. They always work hard.”
Notre Dame will host Western at Notre Dame High School in Portsmouth, OH Thursday evening.