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Notre Dame reaches semifinals of state volleyball tournament behind balanced offensive attack

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

The balanced offensive attack that has been a key element in the Notre Dame volleyball team’s successful season carried the Pandas to a 3-0 win over McCracken County in the state tournament quarterfinals on Friday at George Rogers Clark High School.

With senior Ava Erpenbeck and sophomore Grace Portwood leading the way, Notre Dame converted on 33 of 76 kill attempts to claim their seventh consecutive three-set victory in the post-season playoffs.

Ava Erpenbeck

The Pandas (32-5) will try to keep that streak alive in a state semifinal match against West Jessamine (32-9) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The winner will advance to the championship match at 7:30 p.m.

Notre Dame won two of the last three state championships and entered this year’s playoffs as the No. 1 team in the state coaches poll. West Jessamine was ranked No. 13. The Colts upset No. 3 Lexington Dunbar, 3-2, in the first round of the state tournament and knocked off unranked Logan County, 3-0, on Friday.

The set scores in Notre Dame’s quarterfinal win were 25-15, 25-15, 25-19. Erpenbeck had nine kills in 14 attempts and Portwood converted on eight of 13 with neither of them making an error. The assist leaders were Lauren Ott with 14 and Lizzy Larkins with 13.

The Pandas also got seven kills and seven service aces from junior Ava Tilden, the match’s leading scorer with 14 points. After McCracken County took a 14-11 lead in the third set, Tilden had three kills and three aces to lead a 14-5 run that ended the match.

The first state semifinal match on Saturday will be Louisville Assumption vs. Louisville Mercy at 11 a.m. Notre Dame won a home match against Mercy on Aug. 31 and has a 1-2 record against Assumption this season.

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