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Borgia gives ND a bitter welcome to Class 3 playoffs
STE. GENEVIEVE, Mo. -- The Notre Dame Bulldogs were unable to conquer perennial volleyball power St. Francis Borgia in the Class 3 sectional Saturday at Ste. Genevieve High School.
But on a war-front within, Notre Dame (31-6-1) ultimately won a battle of nerves before its season closed.
After imploding in a 15-4 rout in the opening set, Notre Dame managed to gather itself and display its talents before losing a dramatic 16-14 decision.
"We're just glad we could come out and show what we were really made of," red-eyed senior Erin Pfau said after a second-set rally fell short. "The first game we were all just a little nervous. It's our first year being 3A and the teams are going to be a little better."
The Bulldogs were striving to reach the state semifinals for a second straight year, but were attempting the feat in Class 3 instead of Class 2. The newly enacted 1.3 enrollment multplier bumped Notre Dame into Class 3, the undisputed domain of Borgia for a decade and a half. In the 16 years under coach Mike Tyree, Borgia (22-11) has won eight state championships and placed second three times, including last season.
On Saturday, the Knights played in their 14th Class 3 sectional. Notre Dame played the role of nervous newcomer.
"The first game I think we were a little nervous because they were a little intimidating," sophomore Laura Browne said. "But I think we felt we could play with them."
Borgia chalked up the first six points of the match directly off Bulldog spikes that went either long or wide. Notre Dame was reeling when a kill-block by Borgia's Kim Unnerstall put Washington ahead 7-0 and had Notre Dame coach Tara Stroup calling timeout.
"I think we were just pretty nervous," Stroup said.
Calmness and improvement came slowly for the Bulldogs. Notre Dame trailed 8-0 when a Sommer McCauley serve went unreturned for Notre Dame's first point.
Borgia opened up a 10-1 lead and saw Notre Dame close the gap to 10-4, but the Knights reeled off five straight points for the win.
In the seond set, Notre Dame grabbed its first lead of the night at 2-1 on a Browne kill. Borgia led 9-5 when Notre Dame began to mount a charge sparked by its steadiest defense of the match. A Katie Beussink kill-block cut the lead to 9-7 and the Knights needed their first timeout in an atempt to stifle the Bulldogs' growing momentum.
"The second game we were confident we could come back and win," Browne said. "We were calming down and playing like we always play."
Unnerstall, who had a match-high eight kills and five blocks, staked the Knights to a 10-7 lead when her serve went unreturned, but Notre Dame answered with four points on Kristen Boos' serve. The second of two straight kills by Browne tied the score 10-10 and McCauley drilled a kill to give Notre Dame an 11-10 advantage.
Borgia regained the lead at 13-11, but Notre Dame knotted the score on a kill-block by Ali Tyson and a dink shot by McCauley.
But Notre Dame stared at match poiint when Katie Schweissguth answered with her own dink shot for a 14-13 Borgia lead. Tyson gave the serve back to the Bulldogs when her soft floater found the floor and then pulled Notre Dame even with an ace.
It proved to be the pinnacle of the match for Notre Dame.
Katie Beussink appeared to give Notre Dame a 15-14 lead when she reached over the net and swatted down a Knight volley, but the six-foot-plus senior was called for a net violation.
"Katie said she wasn't in the net," Tyson said. "She's just really tall."
"I don't think she was either," Stroup said.
Borgia capitalized on the call as Schweissguth ended the match with two serves. The first serve went off a Notre Dame player and the second fell between two Bulldogs, who both stood frozen staring at the other.
McCauley led Notre Dame with seven kills and 12 assists. Pfau led the defensive effort with 14 digs while Tyson had 12. Tyson and Brown, who had a team-high four blocks, both finished with six kills.
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