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Notre Dame volleyball team defeats Perryville in three-game thriller
PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- The Notre Dame and Perryville volleyball teams have built quite a rivalry in recent years.
That was on full display Monday night in front of a big crowd at Perryville's gymnasium.
"This is what pumps us up. This is what volleyball is all about," Notre Dame senior Miranda Fowler said. "It's always intense against Perryville."
It certainly was intense as the squads met for the third time this season after splitting their first two meetings.
The host Pirates had a match point in the second game, but Notre Dame rallied for a 19-25, 26-24, 25-13 victory.
"It was the most amazing match I've ever played in my high school career," Notre Dame senior Myriah Bernard said.
The Bulldogs improved to 19-1-1 with their 18th consecutive win. Their only loss this year was to Perryville in the season-opening Notre Dame VolleyballFest.
Perryville, which fell to 17-4, beat Notre Dame in last year's Class 3 District 1 title match for the Pirates' first district championship since 1997.
The Bulldogs bested Perryville in the 2010 district final on the way to their second straight final four appearance.
"Perryville is always our biggest rival, especially since last year when we lost in districts," Notre Dame senior Taylor Ward said. "We really needed to get the win and get the No. 1 seed in districts."
Notre Dame coach Tara Stroup believes the Bulldogs clinched the top seed for the upcoming Class 3 District 1 tournament, which she considers important because Dexter is another strong team in the district.
For a good part of Monday's match it looked like the Pirates would be able to lay claim to the district's top seed.
Perryville controlled most of the first game and won 25-19.
"I don't know what happened the first game," Ward said.
A tight second game appeared to swing the Pirates' way when they opened up a 19-13 lead, but Notre Dame pulled even with a 6-0 run.
"I think we stopped playing when it was 19-13," Perryville coach David Mirly said. "I think maybe we thought we had it. You can't do that against Notre Dame."
Both sides traded blows the rest of the game. Perryville had a match point after standout senior hitter Natalie Gremaud's kill-block put the Pirates ahead 24-23.
"We had to stay mentally strong," Fowler said.
Fowler, the Bulldogs' star hitter, bailed Notre Dame out with three straight kills for a 26-24 victory.
The second game featured 16 ties and eight lead changes.
"They get a little intimidated by those big crowds sometimes," Stroup said in trying to explain Notre Dame's slow start. "We weren't communicating. We weren't running our offense. We have a very good offense and we were struggling to run it. Halfway through the second game we got going. The third game we were more relaxed."
Fowler's kill on the first point of the third game gave the Bulldogs a quick lead. They never relinquished the advantage and cruised 25-13.
"We played a great third game. We played our game," Fowler said.
Bernard said the Bulldogs remained calm despite dropping the opening game.
"We forgot it. We knew we had to win it in two. I trusted my team," Bernard said. "We just had the mindset ‘Go big or go home.'"
Fowler paced Notre Dame's offense with 10 kills, including three kill-blocks.
Bernard added eight kills, and senior Kelsey Luster recorded seven kills while serving 12 points.
"We had a pretty balanced offense between those three," Stroup said.
Ward, the Bulldogs' setter, set up Notre Dame's hitters with 22 assists.
Juniors Karsen Powers and Madeline Rosenquist paced the Bulldogs' defense with nine and eight digs, respectively.
Junior Kaitlin Welter led Notre Dame in service points with 13.
Gremaud had a match-high 20 kills for the Pirates.
"She's a stud for us," Mirly said.
Both coaches praised the other side and said they wouldn't be surprised if a fourth meeting takes place for the district title.
"They really have a good team. They're the scrappiest defensive team we play against," Stroup said.
Said Mirly: "I felt both teams came out and played real strong. I thought we gave Notre Dame our best shot, and they gave us our best shot. It's been a battle when we play them. It's fun. The crowd loves it. Our goal is to meet them again."
Bernard expects that to happen.
"It will be a good game when it comes to districts," she said.