Notre Dame wins Dig for Life volleyball tournament

Sunday, September 9, 2012
Saxony Lutheran’s Jordan Hoff spikes over Clearwater’s McKenzie Brinkley in the silver bracket championship match of the SEMO Spike Volleyball Classic on Saturday at the Show Me Center. (Fred Lynch)

Notre Dame volleyball coach Tara Stroup wanted Miranda Fowler to put Bernie away. Fowler responded with a right-side spike that was tipped out of bounds.

"She's just such a smart player. If she is being blocked on one side, she takes the other side. She knows when to tip," Stroup said. "I looked at her on game point, and I said, ‘Finish this thing,' and she did. She'll step up. She wants that role."

Fowler's 11th kill of the match secured the Dig for Life Challenge championship for Notre Dame on Saturday. The Bulldogs won the match in consecutive sets.

"I just did what I had to do," Fowler said. "I didn't really know what the plan was. Luckily, it went down."

Both teams played six games over two days in the 48-team event leading up their championship matchup. The championship match was a rematch from Tuesday, when the Bulldogs beat Bernie in consecutive games.

Perryville's Lauren Buxton, left, Alex Spears and Kristen Triller try to block a shot by Notre Dame's Miranda Fowler in their match of the SEMO Spike Volleyball Classic Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 at the Show Me Center. (Fred Lynch)

"I knew what a good coach they have, and how good they played the last few points of the game," Stroup said. "I told the girls before the game, ‘They are not going to be the same team we just saw last week. They have made it to the championship. They've played a lot more games, and they're going to be playing to win.' I knew that they would be very good defensively, and they were."

Stroup also credited her team's defensive effort and the digging of libero Carson Powers in particular, who had 11 digs in the match.

"She doesn't get a lot of credit, but she brought us back in several games today," Stroup said. "She plays hard. When [her teammates] see the defense make a spectacular play, it impresses the rest of them and kind of inspires them to play better."

Bernie scored five consecutive points to lead 6-5 in the first game. With the match tied at 8-8, Notre Dame went on a five-point streak, three of which were aces by Sarah Lawrence. Bernie never came within three points of Notre Dame's lead and lost the game 25-20.

"I think that our setting was solid and our passing," Stroup said. "Those two things don't get a whole lot of credit because it's always about the hits and ace serves. We were putting the ball in the setters' hands so we were able to run our offense."

Bernie led 4-0 to start the second game, and maintained until Notre Dame went on a run. With Bernie leading 15-11, Fowler and Lawrence combined for seven of the next 12 points during a 10-2 run for Notre Dame. Fowler's game point won it 25-23.

"I'm very proud of the fact that they fought to get that far," Bernie coach Erin Hoffman said. "Of course you're never satisfied with the loss. We have a lot of work that we've got to do to get even better, but they fought the whole way through. They didn't stop one time. They were all over the floor this last game."

Both teams played five tournament games Saturday, four which were in the Gold Bracket and the other was in pool play. Notre Dame defeated St. Vincent in three game (25-18, 24-26, 25-20), and Advance (25-21, 25-23) and Perryville (25-17, 25-18) in consecutive sets before the championship match.

"Just knowing that this is the last game of the day, and that we just needed to keep pushing, was motivation so we could get that gold medal," Lawrence said.

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