Perryville volleyball team upsets Notre Dame in district final

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

DEXTER, Mo. -- The Class 3 District 1 championship volleyball match between Perryville and Notre Dame was as exciting as the 2011 championship match between the two rivals.

Turns out it was the same result as well.

The defending champion Pirates downed the top-seeded Bulldogs 28-26, 26-24 to once again claim the district crown.

"They have such a great program over there," Perryville coach Dave Mirly said about Notre Dame. "We've been working so hard to build our program, and we've really done a great job. Every year we've had great captains and great leaders, and everyone really gets on their shoulders. The whole team just battled. I'm so proud of them."

The championship featured a flair for the dramatic with both teams trading blows throughout.

The first game featured 13 lead changes and 13 ties as the fans for both sides chanted.

Notre Dame (30-3-1) jumped out to a 9-5 lead, but the Pirates gradually chipped away to tie it at 13-13.

Third-seeded Perryville (30-5-1) then took over, claiming seven of the next 10 points for a 20-16 lead.

"I trust my team with everything," Perryville hitter Natalie Gremaud said. "We don't play timid, if we're down by five points, we still swing as hard as we can to get that next point. The younger girls really stepped up. We have seven seniors that play, but we wouldn't be the team we are if the sophomores didn't step up and play, and our junior Kaylie Hadler."

Notre Dame never backed down and tied the game at 23-23 on a Miranda Fowler kill.

The teams traded points to make it 26-26 before Notre Dame was called for touching the net. The Bulldogs' attempted kill sailed wide on the next point to give Perryville the first game.

"It was a good, solid game," Notre Dame coach Tara Stroup said. "I felt like we played hard, and I told them when we came out here, ‘Don't walk out of here and feel like you didn't try your best. Like, Oh I should have got that ball or I should have done this.' I felt like we didn't quit until that last ball dropped. I honestly thought we still had a legitimate shot."

The Pirates made it difficult on the Bulldogs all night, playing nearly flawless defense and frustrating the top seed.

"Our defense, we definitely had to stay on it all night," Perryville senior Lauren Buxton said. "We really had to pick it up and get our big blocks. We're definitely not the tallest team, so we really have to work in the back row a lot. Our libero did awesome tonight and all of our back row players were spot on tonight, getting passes up and our blockers getting touches and helping them out back there."

The Bulldogs found little room to breathe in the second game but did open up a 5-2 lead to briefly swing the momentum.

Perryville quickly silenced Notre Dame's offense and went on the attack.

"Our offense has been our strength all season," Stroup said. "But they picked everything up. They play relentless defense. It was frustrating because we'd hit a ball hard right to a good spot, and they'd be there to pick it up."

Gremaud made sure the offense was taken care of for the Pirates.

The senior hitter hurt Notre Dame all night with kills.

"We turn to her. It's no secret. Everybody knows it," Mirly said. "She does a phenomenal job. I tell my setters to keep setting her until her arm falls off, and it hasn't fallen off so we just keep setting. She's everything for us. What's great is all the other girls that get in the game are great players and can step up at any moment and make plays out there as well."

Gremaud led the comeback for Perryville in the second game.

The senior earned a kill to make it 5-3, and Hadler followed with a kill to get Perryville started. Back-to-back Notre Dame errors gave the Pirates a 6-5 lead they never relinquished.

Notre Dame stayed close, never trailing by more than four points until Perryville blocked an attempted kill to make it 22-17 and forcing Stroup to call a timeout.

The Bulldogs responded out of the timeout, clawing their way back to make it 23-23.

Mirly called his first timeout to settle down his team.

"I just kept telling them calm down," Mirly said. "One point at a time, we didn't want to get caught up in the moment."

The Pirates didn't, thanks to Gremaud.

She buried a kill to make it 24-23. And after Notre Dame pulled even, Gremaud put the Pirates up 25-24 on another kill.

"I was cutting around the block well until Miranda Fowler did a great job. She's a tremendous blocker. She got the best of me a couple of times," Gremaud said. "I just had to try and find ways. I told my setter I'll fake the one and push it outside, so maybe we can get a one-on-one outside."

The Pirates closed the book on Notre Dame when the Bulldogs were unable to control a dig, and it set off a raucous celebration from Perryville fans.

"We knew this game meant the best of the best," Gremaud said. "We came out here and played with heart and hard work. We're not the tallest team. They're more athletic than we are, but we came out and played our heart out and it paid off."

Notre Dame advanced to the championship match with a 25-21, 25-8 win over Kennett in the semifinals.

Perryvile reached the title match with a win 25-20, 25-18 over Dexter.

The Pirates will play in the Class 3 sectional round Saturday.

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