Editor’s Note: Ashland Daily Independent sports reporter Matthew Sparks contributed to this report.
Fair or not, the Notre Dame Pandas (31-5 overall) and Bishop Brossart Mustangs (27-14) volleyball teams hit the road for the first round of the state tournament looking to control what they could. Here are the results:
Notre Dame 3, Paintsville 0
Criticism of the state process that put Notre Dame on the road to Paintsville in the state volleyball tournament continued Monday ahead of the first round game. The state’s ratings percentage index (RPI) dictated who goes where, and also placed Louisville power Mercy on the road in the state tournament.
But Notre Dame took the challenge and won the opening round game at Paintsville (38-3) in three straight sets, 25-21, 25-11, and 25-21.
“Paintsville did a great job. Coming into this environment, we knew that it was going to be tough,” said Jenna Leistner, Notre Dame associate head coach. “All kudos to their coach (Dawn Kinner) and that entire program. But our girls knew what they were coming into and they mentally and emotionally prepared for this moment, focusing, dialing in and playing as a team.”
The Pandas came into the game knowing they had size and depth advantages.
Notre Dame senior Peyton Mast put down a team-high 16 kills. Sydney Nolan also did her fair share of damage consistently elevating above the Paintsville blocks for 14 kills.
“I enjoy it because a lot of the time, they’re not really expecting a lefty,” Mast said. “A lot of time, I can face cross and hit the ball on the line because nobody’s there. It’s a really fun shot to pull out.”
Then Notre Dame added three hitters, sophomores Ava Tilden and Riley McCloskey, and freshman Audrey Dyas. Tilden had nine kills with McCloskey and Dyas contributing six and five respectively. Sophomore Ella Goetz got in on the action with four kills including a few tips to the middle to go with one block and one ace.
Notre Dame recorded 54 kills minus just four errors on 108 attempts for a .463 hitting percentage to go with five aces, 47 assists, 58 digs and five blocks. Things started with the senior dynamic libero Kamden Schrand with 22 digs.
“That’s such a good team,” Kinner said. “Their libero (Schrand) is phenomenal. Every offense starts with that first pass and she was lights out.”
Sophomore defensive specialist Julia Grace had 10 digs and senior defensive specialist Kayla Hostetler added seven digs and two aces. That allowed Notre Dame’s two setters to do their thing. Sophomore Lauren Ott had 26 assists and freshman Lizzy Larkins contributed 17.
“It’s really about communication,” Grace said of the Pandas’ defense. “If you’re not communicating with each other, you’re not going to have a good game. Kamden does a really good job communicating in the back row with us. It helps a lot reading the other team.”
Ratliff landed a block on Nolan to start the first game before Notre Dame ran off five straight including two Nolan kills. Dyas recorded a block to give Notre Dame a 9-3 lead forcing Paintsville to take a timeout.
Notre Dame led 13-8. But the Tigers used a 5-0 run on two Slone aces to tie the game at 13. After Tilden and Goetz kills gave the Pandas the lead back at 15-13, the Tigers fought back to take a 16-15 lead on a Ratliff block.
The teams had three ties before a Nolan kill gave the Pandas the lead for good at 20-19. A Dyas kill put Notre Dame up 21-19 prompting another Paintsville timeout. Notre Dame led 23-19 before a net error trimmed the lead to 23-20. Little answered a Dyas kill of blocks making it 24-21 Notre Dame before the game ended on a Paintsville passing error.
“I’m so proud of our girls. They showed up and they competed,” Kinner, a 2000 Campbell County graduate, said. “In games one and three, I thought they gave it everything that they had. The energy in this gym with the fans behind them was just a great experience for them.”
Notre Dame scored the second game’s first two points and never looked back. The Pandas led 8-6 before scoring 10 straight to go up 18-6. The game finished on a Nolan block.
“It really helps because when you’re down, you just need a push of momentum to get the team going,” Tilden said. “It really helps you when the passing and hitting is all on. It lets you get into a flow.”
The third game stayed close the majority of the way with Paintsville taking the led a couple times including 15-12 at one point after eighth grader Kylie Kinner landed a kill. But two Mast and one Goetz kill tied the game.
Four straight points put the Pandas up 20-17 including a Hostetler ace. Mast ended the game with two kills.
“Notre Dame Academy volleyball is a great tradition,” Leistner said. “As a coach and alum, I’m blessed to be part of that tradition. Part of our tradition is trying to be fast and run a quick offense. That all comes from our back row with our first pass. Our first contact is quick up to our setter and we do great things in those moments.”
Notre Dame faces 13th Region champion Whitley County (25-14) on Thursday at 5 p.m. in the state quarterfinals at George Rogers Clark High. Whitley County beat 14th Region champion Wolfe County, 3-1 (19-25, 25-21, 27-25, 25-14) on the road to make it to Thursday.
Boyd County 3, Bishop Brossart 0
The Mustangs fell on the road in their first-ever appearance in the state tournament, losing in straight sets to Boyd County (37-4), 25-18, 25-20, and 25-13.
“It was tough with Halloween and Monday Night Football with the Bengals,” said Bree Velazquez, Brossart head coach. “We didn’t have our usual cheering section. It normally travels well. … It was a long travel day. That hurt us. We are a young team. My top two hitters are sophomores. My setter is an eighth grader. It’s the start of something great. We have come a long way.”
Boyd County used a 7-0 run to erase a deficit in the first game. But two straight hitting errors gave Brossart a 16-15 lead. The Lions finished it strong to pull away.
“I think we came in and underestimated our opponent,” Boyd County head coach Katee Neltner, a 2006 Calvary Christian graduate, said. “When you know very little about an opponent, you can make that mistake. In the 10th Region, we have played Montgomery County, but other than that, we don’t get up to Northern Kentucky.”
The teams were tied 6-6 to start the second game but Brossart built a 14-6 lead with eight scores in a row. But five straight hitting errors let the Lions come back.
“We definitely struggled tonight to stay in system,” Velasquez said. “Our passing is normally pretty strong. They caught us off guard and they were strong with their serve. (Boyd County) hits well and we are usually strong with our defense. Tonight, it just wasn’t it and that happens. I am really proud of what we accomplished this year.”
Brossart struggled to compete in the third game.
Junior Taylor Bartrum led Boyd County with 16 kills and senior Carly Mullins had 12. Senior Emma Sparks added 11 kills with senior Aly Caldwell and junior Carleigh Conley tallying 28 and 13 assists respectively.
The Mustangs graduate two seniors in right side/defensive specialist Ava Thomas and setter Savannah Seiter. Seiter was not able to play in the game because of injuries.