PORTSMOUTH – It’s no secret that Notre Dame volleyball’s success this decade is nearly unparalleled in southeastern Ohio.
The top-seeded Titans, hosting eight seeded Paint Valley, were favored to win Thursday’s Division IV sectional final between the two.
Paint Valley, three set winners over Whiteoak, Monday, finished seventh overall in the SVC, a conference known for their strong volleyball prowess.
Those facts, among others, are reasons that Titans coach Cassidy Roney wanted to make sure her group did not overlook a battle-tested Bearcats squad.
And, to her liking, in their three set victory (25-18, 25-19, 25-16) over Paint Valley, Notre Dame did everything but overlook their opponent to claim the school’s seventh straight volleyball sectional championship.
“The big thing coming into the game was making sure we didn’t take this lightly because our record was so much better than theirs,” Roney said following Thursday’s win. “They play bigger schools than we do, a tougher conference schedule game in and game out than we do. They were really good competition for us tonight, I’m proud of how we handled that.”
Unfortunately, the Titans were without one of their key hitters Thursday in Taylor Schmidt who suffered a slight ankle injury during warm-ups of their game with Paint Valley.
Preliminary predictions from the Titans coaching and medical staff believe that Schmidt should be a full go during next week’s Division IV district tournament in Jackson, but that could easily change depending on any changes in Schmidt’s injury status.
However, without one of their best hitters, it was up to the Titans to adjust to playing without one of their senior leaders.
In pre-game, Roney was forced to switch her team’s rotations so that seniors Paetyn Collins and Olivia Smith would have an increased role on the court.
“Olivia Smith and Paetyn Collins really stepped up for us,” Roney said. “Olivia did really good in the back row. We had to completely change around the rotation with 10 minutes left in warm up: had to move Ava [Hassel] to the outside and move Paetyn and Olivia to different spots. It wasn’t something we had practiced or prepared for, so I was pleased with how we handled that situation.”
Ultimately, it was Notre Dame’s runs in each of their three sets that helped them prevail in Thursday’s sectional final win.
More often than not, when the Titans won serve, they were keeping it for at least a few serves, no matter the server at the line.
After being tied with the Bearcats in set one at 6-6, the Titans used a 19-12 run to close the set and take a 1-0 lead.
Same story in set two: with Paint Valley holding a 16-15 lead, Notre Dame finished the set on a 10-3 run to take a 2-0 match lead over the visiting Bearcats.
And if you thought the story might not be the same in set three: think again. Trailing Paint Valley early in the set at 9-5, the Titans finished the set on a 20-7 run to take the match 3-0 and claim their seventh straight sectional title.
On the offensive and defensive ends, Claire Dettwiller was nothing short of a force. The Titans junior finished Thursday’s win with a team-high 17 kills and a team high five blocks. Sophia Hassel finished Thursday’s win with four kills, 11 digs, and a team-high four service aces.
Ava Hassel led the Titans back line with a team high 27 digs while senior setter Cassie Schaefer finished with a team-high 26 assists.
Schaefer, Collins, and Chloe Delabar finished with three kills in the win. Collins also added three service aces for Notre Dame in the win.
All in all, it’s been a whirlwind few weeks for the Notre Dame volleyball program, and it doesn’t get slower from here.
A week ago Tuesday, Notre Dame clinched an outright SOC I title, the program’s fifth straight conference volleyball title. In the same game, Schaefer recorded her 2,000th career assist in a Titans uniform, a mark very few are able to reach.
After Thursday’s sectional final win, Notre Dame now must look forward to district tournament play where they’ll be going for the program’s fourth straight district volleyball title.
Afteir their four set win over Miller, Thursday, Glouster Trimble claimed a sectional title and earned the opportunity to face the Titans in next Thursday’s Jackson #2 district semifinal beginning at 6 p.m.
As if it wasn’t clear what approach these Titans would be taking into next week’s district tournament, it’s one that resonates well with teams who have faced Notre Dame in the district tournament in the past: determined, focused, and eyes-on-the-prize.
“We’ve got to work hard in practice this week, and have confidence in our play and game plan,” Roney said. “If we can keep our heads up, stay confident in who we are, and work hard in practice next week, I think we’ve got a good shot to accomplish one of our goals.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved