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Notre Dame launches run for state volleyball title with 3-0 win over Campbell County in first-round match

Campbell County hitter Lexi Scharold gets the ball past a block attempt by Notre Dame teammates Eva Erpenbeck, No. 4, and Audrey Dyas in Monday’s state tournament match. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

The Notre Dame volleyball team that won last year’s state tournament is determined to do it again.

After the Pandas won a first-round match against Campbell County, 3-0, on Monday in Alexandria, their coaches said they have two practice days to work on getting even better so they can continue their run for another state title.

Notre Dame junior Riley McCloskey drills a kill during match against Campbell County. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

“We are nowhere near perfect and I still don’t think we’ve met the potential of this team, which is very exciting,” said Notre Dame co-head coach Leslie Litmer.

“But potential almost means nothing at this point. We have to perform, and that’s what we’re trying to make sure we do, so that when it’s time our girls will rise and perform.”

Notre Dame (31-5) has won six post-season playoff matches in straight sets after finishing the regular season ranked No. 1 in the state coaches poll. The Pandas’ next opponent will be McCracken County (27-11) in the state quarterfinals at 5 p.m. Friday at George Rogers Clark High School.

If the McCracken County coaching staff gets a scouting report on Notre Dame, it will confirm that the Pandas have an uptempo style of play designed to get the ball upfront to several talented hitters who are hard to defend.

Notre Dame had 39 kills in the three-set win over Campbell County. The team leaders were juniors Eva Tilden with 11 and Riley McCloskey with 10. The Pandas also had 10 service aces with McCloskey getting three to go along with two blocks.

“I think all of us are really well-rounded, so any of us can do whatever our coaches want us to do,” McCloskey said. “I think that’s what make us so good is we have so many players who can do so many different things.”

In the first set, Notre Dame went on an 8-0 run to take a 16-5 lead with Tilden getting three kills. Two of the final three points came on kills by McCloskey to nail down a 25-11 win.

Notre Dame libero Julia Grace gets one of her team-high 10 digs during the match. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

The Pandas took a 21-9 lead on an ace by McCloskey in the second set. Campbell County mounted a late rally to pull within 23-17, but it ended with Notre Dame getting a 25-18 decision.

In the final set, back-to-back aces by junior Julia Grace put Notre Dame ahead, 11-4, and the Pandas kept rolling to a 25-7 victory that ended the match. It was Campbell County’s second 3-0 loss to Notre Dame this season.

“I was really proud of how our girls responded there in the third set,” said coach Litmer. “I felt like we got back to the tempo we like to play with our serving and then our passing … feeding into our hitters and keeping it fast.”

Campbell County coach Mikah Freppon did not have final stats for her team, but she knew unforced errors were a big reason for the loss that ended the Camels 19-14 season.

“That would’ve been a big thing,” she said. “Missing serve after serve or just not getting our feet set on serve receive, those are critical, especially playing a team like Notre Dame.”

The Pandas need three more wins to claim the program’s 11th state championship and third one in four years. They have two more days of practice to get ready for the final run.

“We put in a lot of work at practice because we all know how much we want it.” McCloskey said.  “It’s a team thing. We all want it so badly.”

(all matches at George Rogers Clack High School)
FRIDAY — Upper bracket
Louisville Mercy (21-20) vs. Boyd County (33-6), 11 a.m.
Louisville Assumption (33-5) vs. Whitley County (35-2), 1:30 p.m.
FRIDAY — Lower bracket
Notre Dame (31-5) vs. McCracken County (27-11), 5 p.m.
Logan County (25-12) vs. West Jessamine (31-9), 7:30 p.m.
Upper bracket semifinal, 11 a.m.
Lower bracket semifinal, 1:30 p.m.
Championship match, 7:30 p.m.

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