On a chilly Tuesday night in Southern Ohio, the Notre Dame Lady Titans showed in their first official game of the 2018-19 season exactly what they are capable of doing this season by defeating the Clay Lady Panthers 57-20 in both teams season and conference opening game.
“With the quick turnaround from volleyball, we knew that our defense would probably be ahead of our offense,” said Notre Dame head coach J.D. McKenzie Tuesday night, “If we could get our defense to force turnovers and get us easy shots on the other end, we thought we’d be okay. I was really proud of how the girls came out, played really hard. Got in some foul trouble, but I’ve got a deep bench, all those girls came in off the bench and gave us great minutes, to start off the season that way against a tough opponent, I’m super proud of them. I told them I was happy and pleased, but we can get a lot better than we are.”
“We were aware of our conditioning,” said Clay head coach Scott Artis, “Being as far as we went into volleyball, it’s going to be a long process to get where want to be conditioning wise and we knew that coming into tonight’s game. I think you could see that after the first three minutes of the game that they’re not where they needed to be conditioning wise. We’ve only gotten to scrimmage one time, so where other teams have been able to go out and get that time to work things, we haven’t really had that chance. Overall, I was encouraged with our effort, but I knew conditioning was going to be our downfall for the first part of the year.”
It was evident early on, as Artis noted, that the pace of play would be an issue for the Lady Panthers. Notre Dame jumped out to an 11-0 lead in the first quarter before closing out the quarter with a 15-5 lead.
The defense and scoring ability of sophomore guard Ava Hassell of Notre Dame was very encouraging to see after she suffered a knee injury in the Lady Titans regional semifinal loss to Waterford earlier this year.
“I’m proud of how hard she worked in the offseason,” said McKenzie, “To get back to where she is, and how many hours she put into rehab. It was her goal to get back by game one. I told her that if she didn’t think she would be ready, I told her to take it easy because I need her in February and March time. She came back, didn’t look like she missed a beat. And she played well besides getting in a little bit of foul trouble.”
The Lady Titans kept up the defensive pressure all night on Clay and were able to keep fresh legs in the game thanks to their bench depth. Notre Dame continued to execute on the offensive end en route to a 57-20 conference opener win over Clay to begin their 18-19 campaign.
Leading Notre Dame in scoring was center Katie Dettwiller with 16 points, junior guard Taylor Schmidt with 13 points, and Hassell with 12 points in her first game off injury.
The Lady Panthers were led in scoring by Artis’ daughter, Skylar, with eight points, while sisters Jaelyn and Jensen Warnock each scored four points apiece.
Clay will travel to Green Thursday evening to face the Lady Bobcats in their second conference game in three days. Artis is hoping his team will, with their first game under their belts, be in a better position to compete in their first road game of the year.
“Every game for us right now is just a matter of us getting in shape. Tonight will help, our girls were exhausted by the end of the night. We have to recover, have to do the things we need to do. But we’re excited to come out Thursday, we’ll be excited to play Green and see where they’re at.”
Notre Dame will host the Western Indians in their first conference home game of the young season Thursday night, a game where McKenzie is hoping his team will improve in some specific areas.
“We’re still a little inconsistent in shooting, we didn’t finish around the rim great at times. We only had 11 turnovers, any coach that coaches girls will take that all day long, any day of the week. That’s the first thing I looked at was the 11 turnovers. Playing defense without reaching and shooting the ball a little bit better.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT