LEOPOLD, Mo. -- The district tournaments may seem anticlimactic following Thursday night's volleyball match between Notre Dame and Leopold.
A raucous crowd packed into Leopold's gym on senior night and saw, among other things, Notre Dame senior Laura Browne and Leopold senior Amber Nenninger fire spikes at each other in a three-set battle.
Leopold finally flinched in the third set, as the Bulldogs posted a 19-25, 25-14, 25-16 victory.
"Notre Dame is a powerhouse," Leopold coach Sandy Davis said. "They've got hitters everywhere. I'm not ashamed of the way we played."
Notre Dame had some firepower, led by Browne with 14 kills and eight blocks. Nenninger led Leopold with 11 kills and nine blocks, many coming in clashes at the net with Browne.
"That's the way volleyball is supposed to be," Davis said.
"That was a good matchup," Notre Dame coach Tara Stroup said. "Laura can put the ball down, and she doesn't have to have a perfect set."
In a battle of district top seeds, Class 1 Leopold jumped on Class 3 Notre Dame with an 8-2 run midway through the first game to open a 20-12 lead. Nenninger had a kill and a block against Browne during the stretch, while Lori VanderMierden also had a pair of kills.
"I just think we were not used to that crowd," Notre Dame coach Tara Stroup said. "I don't think we played bad, we were just rattled. The girls couldn't hear each other.
"Once we got over that, we played our game. We play pretty well under pressure."
In the second set, Notre Dame (27-4-3) scored six straight points to pull away from an 8-8 deadlock with the Wildcats (20-6). Amanda Essner had a kill and a block during the stretch, and she added another block as Notre Dame later pushed its lead to 21-12.
Notre Dame opened the third set with a kill by Brown and used well-placed serves by Lauren Mehner and Laura Essner to claim 7-2 edge. Leopold was within 9-6 when Notre Dame scored a point and Vandeven injured her left ankle. With VanderMierden out and Nenninger sitting out on the rotation, Notre Dame built a 17-7 lead and was never headed.
"In the second game, we got away from our game, and Notre Dame didn't let up," Davis said. "They're a great team. You can't take anything away from them.
"I told the girls to keep their heads up. We're doing well and working hard and no one expected us to be doing as well as we are."
Rachel Crader had 25 assists and 15 digs for Leopold, while Sam Bueter added 14 digs, Mary Beth Bohnsack had eight and Tonya Arnzen had six.
While Leopold's nine seniors played their home finale, Notre Dame brought in 10 seniors with big-game experience after the Bulldogs' fourth-place state finish last year.
Amanda Essner ended up with 10 kills, Mehner had seven digs and three aces, Allison Essner had 17 assists, and Amber Karnes had 14 assists and nine blocks.