Notre Dame volleyball seniors talk what’s next after state title

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The five Notre Dame Pandas seniors came to the school to discuss rings with associate head coach Jenna Leistner several days after winning the 10th state championship in program history.

Four of the five seniors off the 34-5 squad will be playing college volleyball after they graduate in the spring. They agree things have sunk in considering they also played on the 2020 state championship team as sophomores with the likes of Anna Long, Emily Wichmann and Anna Grace.

“I really want them to balance volleyball with enjoying the accomplishments,” said Leslie Litmer, Notre Dame head coach. “Rest is important in all of that. During club season, it’s important to fuel their bodies the right way.”

Two players will head off to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Libero Kamden Schrand will head to the University of Louisville.

Schrand owns the new program record for career digs with 1,249 and recorded 194 career aces good for second in program history behind Krista Robinson‘s 205 set in 1990. Schrand broke her own program record of 81 aces in a season set last year with 85 this season. Schrand also earned a spot on the American Volleyball Coaches Association High School All-America First Team.

“Hopefully, they can keep it in the 9th Region in the following years,” Schrand said. “I’m sure all of as alumni will be able to cheer on the Pandas in the future. But our team is like a family. We’ll hopefully stay in touch with the underclassmen because we’re real close with them. Hopefully, we’ll all stay in touch as seniors. We’ll have each others backs. I’m sure whenever we’re home from college, we’ll see each other.”

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Schrand wants to improve at serve-reception before heading to Louisville. Schrand said she has mental blocks with that aspect at times.

Sydney Nolan, a 6-foot-4-inch hitter, is headed to the University of North Carolina. Nolan said she wants to improve her defense and blocking before heading to Chapel Hill.

Nolan finished her career with 1,160 kills and 243 blocks including 37 solo. Nolan earned a spot on the American Volleyball Coaches Association High School All-America Second Team.

But Nolan is most proud to help the Pandas beat Louisville power Assumption three times this year including the thrilling five-game series in the state semifinals. Notre Dame had not beaten Assumption at the state tournament since 1994.

“We definitely put in the hard work to be able to pull off those results,” Nolan said. “Everything we did we were really focusing on that outcome. It’s the best way we could have gone out obviously.”

Defensive specialist Kayla Hostetler is headed to Eastern Michigan University from the Mid-American Conference.

Hostetler said she’d like to improve at reading holes better through blocks. She dug up 559 digs and recorded 108 aces in her career for the Pandas. But she’s thankful to be part of a balanced team.

“It’s really important here, especially because we had like 50 girls try out freshman year and that just shows how competitive volleyball is here,” Hostetler said. “The people that did make the team continued to work hard because they know other people could have had this opportunity, too.”

Peyton Mast gave opponents problems hitting as a left-hander. The six-footer finished her career with 552 kills and 108 blocks including 11 solo. Mast and the Notre Dame hitters consistently hit the ball around blocks.

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“A big thing about that too is it takes a lot of trust from your teammates. You have to trust your passers know where to find the hole where you should hit the ball and that takes a while. But we picked that up instantly,” Mast said. “At the end, I’m sure everyone saw our team chemistry. They told us where to hit the ball and we got the kills.”

Mast is headed to the University of New Haven (Connecticut) Chargers, members of the NCAA Division II Northeast-10 Conference. Mast said she wants to play all six rotations in college.

Defensive specialist Jada Kramer finished her career with 154 digs and 61 aces. Kramer agreed she’d have started for a number of teams across the country. Kramer and junior hitter Ava Erpenbeck shared tears of joy after Notre Dame beat Lexington Dunbar in the state championship game.

“I just knew it was my last game,” Kramer said. “I won’t be playing in college. I may try intramurals or something like that.”

2023 outlook:

Similar to years past, Notre Dame returns a lot of varsity experience. The Pandas came into the season with question marks at setter but sophomore Lauren Ott and freshman Lizzy Larkins filled those roles nicely with 694 and 545 assists respectively.

The Pandas return three 6-1 hitters in sophomores Riley McCloskey and Ava Tilden along with freshman Audrey Dyas. That size gave the Pandas a big advantage in every postseason tournament game except Assumption, which also has five players standing 6-feet and above.

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Dyas led the Pandas with 82 blocks including 67 assisted and Tilden finished second behind Nolan with 272 kills. Sophomore Ella Goetz finished second with 74 blocks including 62 assisted. Freshman Grace Portwood and junior Brooke Jackson recorded kills in the state quarterfinal win over Whitley County.

The Pandas will have some question marks at defensive specialist behind sophomore Julia Grace. Grace finished second with 257 digs and third with 35 aces. But Notre Dame usually has contributors waiting in the wings.

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