As far as excitement goes, the match between the Notre Dame Titans and the Clay Panthers may have been one of the most exciting matches for those who attended Clay High School Thursday night. In the first match between these two teams, the Panthers swept the Titans on Notre Dame’s home court in straight sets (25-23, 26-24, 25-21). In that match, the Panthers were led by senior Jensen Warnock’s 22 kills and Lila Brown’s 38 assists.
Earlier in the week, Brown celebrated an amazing achievement by recording her 2,000th assist against the Green Bobcats. Brown’s teammate, Shaelyn Vassar, recorded her 1,000th reception during that same match, becoming the first player ever from Clay High School to achieve that mark.
Clay came into Thursday night’s match riding high and undefeated so far in SOC I play, until the Notre Dame Titans decided to play spoiler in Thursday’s highly competitive rivalry match on the Panthers home court.
The first set looked as if it was going to be the Titans night all along as they took leads of 7-3 and 15-8, both of which forced Panthers head coach Sarah Hammond to call timeouts to try and rally her squad. Coming out of that timeout, things started to go in Clay’s favor as they proceeded to score five of the next six points to cut their deficit to 16-13.
The Panthers were even able to take the lead in the late stages of the set at 23-22, forcing Titans head coach Kelsey Glockner to call a timeout. As would prove to be a theme in the remaining sets in the match, Glockner’s team came out of the timeout and scored the final three points to win the set by a score of 25-23 thanks to a Katie Dettwiller kill and a combined block between Dettwiller and Sophia Hassel.
The second set would have the largest margin of victory in the entire match, but still felt as if each team was playing at their absolute best. The Panthers would have a three point lead in the second set when Glockner called her first timeout at 17-14 in favor of Clay. Coming out of the timeout, the Panthers scored eight of the last eleven points in the set to win the set 25-17 and to tie the match at 1-1.
The most pivotal set of any volleyball match, the third set, was nothing less than sitting on the edge of your seat volleyball performances by both teams. The first half of the set saw several ties and lead changes as both teams fought for an inch of breathing room. Neither team put out a scoring run of more than three points until the Panthers scored four straight to take a 17-14 advantage and force Glockner to use her first timeout of the set. Coming out of the timeout, as they did all night, the Titans stepped up to the challenge of facing a deficit and proceeded to score the next four points of the set, forcing Hammond to use her first timeout of the set.
Coming out of the timeout, after more back and forth, Clay and Notre Dame each scored two points before Hammond used her second timeout of the set, her team trailing 20-19 heading into the final stages of the pivotal third set. Clay crawled back into the game to tie it at 23-23 by scoring four of the last seven points, forcing another Titans timeout. Once again, Notre Dame made the plays they needed to after Katie and Claire Dettwiller both got back to back kills to end the third set in favor of the Titans at 25-23.
Just when you thought that another timeout wouldn’t lead the Titans to another set victory in the fourth: think again. The set began with Clay falling behind 7-4 before they scored six straight points to take the lead 10-7 as they hoped to extend the match into a fifth and final set. The Panthers would continue to extend their lead to 19-13 behind Warnock’s team high 22 kills and Lila Brown’s team high 51 assists.
What would happen next, however, is something no one in attendance could have seen coming. Notre Dame scored six straight points, the second, but not the last such run in the set, to tie the game at 19-19. Clay would go on to score the next three points of the set to give them the lead 22-19, forcing Glockner to take her team into the timeout one last time, hoping their play would come together and string together a run. The Titans did just that by scoring the last six points of the match to win the set by a score of 25-22 and steal a road victory from Clay to put themselves in a tie for first place in the SOC I after both teams defeated each other in road victories this season.
Titans head coach Kelsey Glockner was very pleased with her team’s ability to finish the game out with run after run, showcasing their will to win. “It’s something we’ve been working on a lot” said Glockner, “We do a really good job of hanging with teams in most games we play. Our non-league schedule is really strong, and we really go searching for those big games. We’ve been with every opponent we’ve played this year, and something that we’ve really been working on is finishing. We talk a lot about how a game is only won by two points and there’s no time to lay off, so I just kept reminding them how hard they need to work to chip away one point at a time, and they decided to pull through and finish to reward their hard work.”
The Panthers and the Titans are now tied for first place in the SOC I race and will likely remain that way as they will share a piece of the league title. As far as playoffs go, both teams are poised and preparing for the upcoming postseason in just a few weeks. If both teams advance as expected in the postseason, these two teams would meet for the third time this season in the regional semifinals. For Glockner, she’s instilling in her team not to take any individual team for granted, “We’re just going to take it one game at a time as we finish up our SOC and non-league schedule. We’ve got a couple tough games coming up out of our non-league schedule, and then we’ll be completely ready for the tournaments, and it’s always super exciting to look forward to.”
The Titans will face off against the Symmes Valley Vikings on their home court in Portsmouth on Tuesday with JV play beginning at 5:30 p.m.
The Panthers will next host the Valley Indians in a non-conference matchup on Monday with JV also beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT