Perryville finally beat Notre Dame when it mattered most, claiming the Class 3 District 1 title 25-13, 25-22 at the Bearcat Event Center.
"To get that monkey off your back, you've got to beat them, and we did that tonight," Perryville coach Dave Mirly said.
Beating the Bulldogs, who have gone to back-to-back final fours, was a goal but not a reality a couple years ago for the up-and-coming program. The Pirates beat Notre Dame in its season-opening tournament but lost twice later in the season, including in the district title match last year.
"We lost last year in the district championship, and we did not play very well," Mirly said. "We actually lost 25-13 to them, and I put that score up on the scoreboard the last couple practices just to remind them how hard you have to work."
Perryville defeated Notre Dame for the third time this season with its district victory.
"We just came out last year and laid an egg against them," Mirly said. "My seniors and my captains, we talked about that game last year, and we made a promise that we were going out and we were going to win it this year."
Perryville scored the first four points of the match and never trailed.
"It's very rewarding," Mirly said. "They work so hard for me. I put them through so much, and then for it all to come together tonight is a great feeling. I'm so happy for them."
The Pirates saved a new defense for Notre Dame's prolific middle hitter Kate Edwards. They triple-blocked her on her first attack of the night.
It was something Perryville had not done against Notre Dame earlier this season but did try against Scott City's Katie Hogan, another dominant player.
"It's something we do occasionally," Perryville senior Shea Leible said. "We know if we triple block every time, they're going to start getting smart and tipping on us, so we try to mix it up as much as possible. But tonight I think it really helped us."
Edwards finished with just two kills in the opening game as she remained the focus of the Perryville block.
"We knew we couldn't stop her," Mirly said. "We were just trying to mix it up, so maybe she'd get confused and tip it when she should hit it and hit it when she should tip it.
"We were able to do it some. I think she got the best of us most of the time, but I think we slowed her down enough, especially that first game, that we could make a run and win comfortably."
Perryville served well in the match. It missed just once while putting regular pressure on Notre Dame.
"We had spots we were aiming at," Mirly said. "We tried to hit their gaps. We felt that if we served between the two players, we could cause some problems, and we were able to do that some. They're just so good, though. Nothing was easy tonight."
The Bulldogs often were unable to attack off the serve and just sent the ball back over the net, which came with a high cost against Perryville's offense.
"Our passing wasn't terrible," Notre Dame coach Tara Stroup said. "It just wasn't right on the spot. It was just a little off, a matter of a foot here or there.
"They've got some good hitters. You cannot give them free balls, so it's very important for everything to be spot-on accurate. We were just a tiny bit off."
Edwards, who had figured out multiple ways to beat Perryville block by then, got a kill to tie the score at 13-13 after the Bulldogs fell behind 5-1 in Game 2. But Perryville scored six of the next seven points to pull away.
Edwards finished with seven kills, and Shelby Dix had 12 assists.
"I thought we tried, and they played hard. It just wasn't our night," Stroup said. "I don't think that we really thought we weren't going to win the game until the last ball hit the floor."
Notre Dame, which finished the season 27-8-1, defeated No. 3 seed Dexter 25-15, 25-16 in the semifinals, while Perryville defeated No. 4 Kennett 25-17, 25-12.
The Pirates improved to 28-3 and will face the District 3 champion at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in a Class 3 sectional at a location that won't be determined until the District 2 champion is decided tonight.
"Last year we lost this game bad," said Perryville junior Natalie Gremaud, who finished with a game-high 13 kills to go along with two aces. "Bad. We knew we could not give up against them. They were not going to give us any free points. We had to earn every single point out there, and it just feels amazing."