Notre Dame girls take shot at 2A state title

Friday, November 2, 2001

"This year we're going, period."

Those were the words of Notre Dame volleyball coach Helen Payne at the outset of the season, on her team's chances of going to state.

Well, they're going.

Notre Dame (27-8-1) reached the Class 2A Final Four with a hard-fought 15-8, 16-14 quarterfinal win over Bismarck to earn the right to advance to the state tournament in Warrensburg, Mo.

"We play a tough schedule and I think we can compete with any team there," said Payne.

The four teams -- Notre Dame, Kansas City St. Pius X, defending champion Hermann and Fair Grove -- will compete in a round-robin format (each team plays the other three teams) today.

The two teams with the best records in the round-robin will play for the 2A championship Saturday at noon. The other two will vie for the third-place trophy at 9 a.m.

The Lady Bulldogs have overcome a rash of injuries during the season, but are at full strength for the state tournament.

Although Notre Dame is making its first-ever state appearance in volleyball, the players should not be in awe of the surroundings since many have experienced state competition in basketball.

With an athletic mix of juniors and seniors, Notre Dame features a powerful frontline, an aggressive defense and a strong service game.

Outside hitter and team captain Courtney Vickery, who Payne calls the "glue", along with middle hitters Jennifer VanGennip and Deana McCormick and outside hitter Libby Beussink, provide power and senior leadership on the front row.

Seniors Emily Worley and Meredith LeGrand are the defensive stalwarts, while junior Ali Tyson and sophomore Summer McCauley handle the setter role with equal effectiveness.

Junior Erin Pfau adds depth to the hitter position and is one of the team's better servers.

Pfau and Vickery were first-team all-district, while McCauley and Vangennip were second-team selections.

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