JACKSON — Over the course of its history, the Notre Dame Titans have put together a sterling tradition in both academics and athletics.
However, the Notre Dame Titans’ volleyball program, in a straight-set win over Federal Hocking on Saturday evening, has accomplished a feat that even a school with Notre Dame’s tradition hasn’t seen in its history.
For the third time in four seasons, the Lady Titans, behind an astounding 11 kills and five solo blocks from Katie Dettwiller and a 17-kill, two-block performance from Lexi Smith, wrapped up a Division IV District Championship en route to advancing to Lancaster in the process by defeating the Lady Lancers, 26-24, 25-20, 25-20, on Saturday evening at Jackson High School in the Division IV, Jackson II District Finals.
And even though Notre Dame didn’t play its most crisp volleyball on Saturday evening, it was the mental aspect of the game — one that has carried the Lady Titans to its 20-5 overall record — that allowed Kelsey Glockner’s group to ultimately prevail.
“Each set presented a different little problem that we were going through,” Glockner said. “We’d fix one problem, then in the next set, it would be something else. The girls, though, did such a good job of battling and not letting those problems affect them. We always talk how we respond to our mistakes, and the girls did a very good job of responding to those mistakes and staying in the game.”
Even though Notre Dame jumped out to a match-opening 6-3 lead early in the first set, Federal Hocking quickly came back en route to proving that it would not be going anywhere throughout the match as the Lady Lancers countered with a 6-0 run behind three massive blocks from Jaylen Rogers that put Federal Hocking back in control.
Dettwiller, however, would soon come in and flip the script in Notre Dame’s favor once more.
Behind an amazing four blocks and a kill from the junior middle hitter, the Lady Titans not only rallied with a 7-0 run en route to grabbing a 13-9 advantage, but used Dettwiller’s play — along with back-to-back kills from Clara Hash — to obtain a 19-13 lead late in the opening set.
“We’ve been calling her ‘Tournament Katie,’” Glockner said of Dettwiller, who posted an incredible .476 attack percentage while only committing one error over the entire match. “The team and I can’t get enough of her. She is just playing her role of middle hitter and middle blocker phenomenally.”
But once again, Federal Hocking proved that it had plenty of big-game experience in its own right.
Behind two aces from Hannah Dunfee, the Lady Lancers took off on a 6-1 run to cut the lead to a 20-19 margin, then overcame three kills from Smith to tie the score at 23-23 and at 24-all behind a kill each from Dunfee and Brittnie Jackson.
However, the frontline stepped up for Notre Dame when it was needed the most.
With the score notched at 24, Dettwiller and Hash responded to the rallies posted by Federal Hocking by pummeling two ferocious kills over the net to obtain a 26-24 victory over the Lady Lancers — a victory that proved to be huge considering how the match transpired.
In the second set, both teams fought furiously for control of the match as Notre Dame and Federal Hocking traded the lead 21 times during the second set by itself. However, after Federal Hocking used a 6-1 spurt — behind three kills from Jackson — to initially take control of the frame, Notre Dame fought back behind its tenacity in all areas.
Over the next 11 volleys, the Lady Titans played arguably their best volleyball of the entire match as Notre Dame, behind a 9-3 spurt that included four kills and a block from Smith to go along with three additional vaults from Dettwiller, took the lead back and never relinquished it en route to a 25-20 victory in the second frame of action.
In that second frame, as well as the third set of action, Notre Dame’s backline play was just as vital to the Lady Titans success as the frontline was, if not even moreso. For the second straight affair, Notre Dame had at least four girls collect 10 or more digs during the affair, including Lexi Smith and Ali Smith (11 each), and Hash and Cassie Schaefer, who finished with 10 digs apiece. This followed up an effort against Miller where Lexi Smith, Hash, Alex Glockner, and Taylor Schmidt obtained 13, 13, 11, and 10 dives, respectively, to lead Notre Dame to a straight-set victory on Thursday evening.
“We work really hard on our transition game and our out-of-system defense,” Glockner said. “We make it a point to get that second touch off of a big dig, and everyone being able to make that second touch off of a big dig is huge.”
In the third set, Notre Dame, as it had in the initial frame, started out fast as the Lady Titans obtained a 9-4 lead right out of the gate. But when Federal Hocking made a 9-2 charge to retake the lead, 13-11, Glockner knew that it was time to talk things over.
“We just talked about the mistakes that we made, what we’ve done to end up in that rut, and how we were going to respond,” Glockner said. “Every player took their mistakes personally how they needed to, and responded as a team. They pulled together and pulled it off.”
And following the timeout, that faith and mental toughness showed as Notre Dame immediately rallied with a 6-2 spurt to push the lead out to a 17-15 advantage behind two kills from Lexi Smith. Federal Hocking rallied back by garnering each of the next pair of volleys to tie the score, but Schaefer — who also obtained 27 assists in addition to her 10 digs — responded with two game-altering plays to keep Notre Dame out in front for good by placing a brilliant attack attempt from the far side of the net over to the near side of the floor and following with an ace to push the Lady Titans out to an advantage that Notre Dame would never relinquish.
“Between Clara, Katie, and Lexi, along with how our girls perform in all areas of the court, it’s just what’s best for the team right now,” Glockner said. “Everyone’s just checked in to the point of not worrying about stats. They’re just worried about getting it done as a team and reaching their goals, so it’s a beautiful thing. Those hitters are swinging hard because they know that the defensive players are backing them up if they get blocked, and that’s what you look for as a coach as your team advances through the tournament.”
With the victory, Notre Dame will advance to the Division IV, Region 15 Semifinals, which will be held at Lancaster High School, on Wednesday evening. There, the Lady Titans will play Waterford — who emerged from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Clay, 3-2, in a thrilling five-set affair in the Division IV, Jackson I District Final.
However, with the first goal, an SOC Championship, and the second goal, a Division IV District Championship, already in the bag, who is to say that Notre Dame can’t accomplish its third goal — a Division IV Regional Championship and an OHSAA Final Four berth?
“Our second goal was to be able to get back to the Sweet 16, because we did that last year,” Glockner said. “Goal No. 2 has been achieved. Our girls are just really trying to stay hungry in this next week just to be the team that they can be in the tournament and get as far as the school’s ever gotten. It’s a big goal for us.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT