For incentive, Notre Dame could not have asked for more Wednesday night than a jam-packed, raucous home gym as the Eagles faced City League rival St. Ursula.
But the cramped quarters and high decibel level did little tooffset one of Ohio's best volleyball teams, as the visiting Arrows took a decisive 25-7, 25-16, 25-17 win in the 61-minute match.
“I wouldn't say it was a breeze,” St. Ursula coach John Buck said. “There were a lot of good points [on rallies] where we came out on top, but our team was firing on all cylinders tonight.
“When we do that, we can roll up some points. It was a team effort. Everybody contributed.”
St. Ursula (11-1, 7-0 CL), Ohio's No. 2-ranked team in Division I, had gotten what may be a preview of this year's state title match on Saturday, dropping a 25-14, 22-25, 25-18 decision to No. 1-ranked defending state champion Cincinnati Ursuline in an invitational at Vandalia Butler.
If that test was a barometer for state tourney play, Wednesday night's matchup gave evidence that St. Ursula may have no serious contender before regional play.
It began with a dominant serve game which led to a 16-2 Arrows' lead in Game 1.
After Haleigh Krell served St.Ursula to a 5-0 lead, standout senior setter Veronica Zimmerman took the ball with a 6-2 score and mixed in five aces while serving on 10 straight Arrows' points.
“They're a great team and they're supposed to win this match,” said first-year Eagles coach Gary Freed. “And that's the way it went down. They played great and they're just a great team.”
Veronica Zimmerman is surrounded as St. Ursula celebrates a point in Wednesday night's match against Notre Dame. The Arrows improved to 11-1, 7-0 in the City League.
In Game 2, the Eagles(8-3, 5-1) stayed within striking range down 10-8 before St. Ursula hit the accelerator once again. The Arrows used a 7-2 surge to take control and cruised down the stretch.
The final game was also decisive, as the Arrows continued to ride the attack games of juniorCassidy Croci and sophomore Maddie Burnham to a 24-12 lead.
“We were just really pumped up to play and we came out and showed them what we had,” Burnham said. “It started in warmups and we carried that into the game.”
Croci topped St. Ursula with 12 kills, the chief recipient of an Arrows rotation that made just about everything click on this night.
“Cassidy set the school record last year for hitting efficiency,” Buck said, “which is pretty good because we've had a lot of good players go through.
“She's on pace to break that this year. She had 12 kills tonight and only one hitting error. What else can you say — just keep feeding her the ball.”
“I couldn't have done it without my passes and sets, and they were right on the money,” Croci said. “I think this showed where we can be, and I feel like we can go farther than this.”
Burnham — the sister senior middle hitter Maggie Burnham (3 kills) — showed her potential with 10 kills.
“She was on fire,” Buck said of Maddie Burnham. “Being a sophomore and carrying the load on the outside, that was awesome.
“She showed mental toughness. She's really grown and we're pleased to she her progress.”
Also contributing to the Arrows' steady all-around flow were juniors Madison Strall, Madison Haupricht, Erin Williams, and Emma Romstadt.
Senior Meghan Smyth and sophomore Morgan Fioritto led Notre Dame with four kills apiece.
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