Class 3: The Bulldogs put up a fight in the second game, but came up short.
DE SOTO, Mo. -- Saturday's loss to Lutheran South in the Class 3 sectional left the Notre Dame volleyball team at .500 for the season.
But the Bulldogs can be satisfied adding to their tradition of state playoff showings -- now at seven appearances in the last eight years -- during a season of transition.
"We knew it was going to be a hard season with us being a real young team," senior setter Paige Schumer said. "I think the juniors and some of the sophomores stepped up. We all did our part."
The Bulldogs lost for the second time this season to the Lancers, but Saturday's 25-14, 27-25 decision was closer than the teams' earlier meeting at the Festus Invitational. In that match, Notre Dame was kept under 20 points in each game.
This time, the Bulldogs (15-15-2) nearly overcame a rough first game to pull off the second game.
"I thought we were really nervous the first game," Notre Dame coach Tara Stroup said. "And we got over our nerves in the second game."
Lutheran South senior Emily Mack put on a display at the net in the first game, where the Lancers pulled away from a 7-7 tie to take an 18-9 lead. Mack had three kills and an impressive block during the stretch, while Notre Dame had three errors leading to points in that same span.
"Lutheran South has good all-around players," Stroup said. "They just don't have the 6-[foot]-2 middle hitter, but they have good ball control all over the floor, and you've got to play extremely well to beat a team like that.
"In the first game, they had a lot of blocks, and we didn't. That was one of the things we did better in the second game."
The Bulldogs fell behind 7-2 in the second game but kept from getting run out of the gym with a 6-1 spree to tie the match. It remained tight until the end, with Notre Dame refusing to yield the lead until the end after grabbing a 16-15 advantage. Notre Dame staved off one match point at 24-23, then won the longest point of the match when sophomore Meghan Dohogne finally finished off a long rally to give the Bulldogs the lead.
Dohogne hit an attack into the net against a Lutheran South block, tying the game, and senior Laura Simon put the Lancers ahead 26-25 after another long rally. Notre Dame was unable to mount an attack off the ensuing serve, ending the match.
"I think we played better today than we did the first time against them," said Schumer, who had a team-high nine assists while playing a versatile role for the Bulldogs. "We had some lucky breaks and some unlucky breaks, but that's just part of it."
Dohogne, who made her presence felt in the second game, finished with six kills, as did junior Bridgett Nenninger, who caught the Lancers off guard with some well-placed hits. Junior Kaitlin Wibbenmeyer added four kills, and junior Kelsey Bradshaw had 11 digs.
Bradshaw had to change her jersey twice to get the proper libero shirt, after her original uniform did not have enough color contrast and the number on the blue shirt belonged to her sister, Allyson. She ended up in a red No. 13.
Notre Dame hovered around .500 all season, but Schumer said the team was propelled to the district title in its late-season three-game loss to Leopold.
"That was one of the best games we played, even though we didn't win," she said. "It showed we could play with good teams, and it prepared us for the game against Dexter in the district."
Said Stroup: "You can tell by our record we've had an up-and-down season. I just think this team was so young. We lost eight seniors from last year [when the team reached the quarterfinals], so when we started, we had no experience.
"This is a good experience for our younger players for the future. We ended on a high note winning the district and being competitive here, and it's a good sign for next year."