Clay Archer, Contributor
JACKSON — Some athletic programs don’t win four district titles in a two-decade span. Notre Dame’s volleyball team has won four in the last four years.
The Titans’ latest district championship came in the form of a 25-16, 25-11, 25-23 clean sweep over Racine Southern, Saturday at Jackson High School.
“It feels great,” Notre Dame senior Sophia Hassel said. “This is our fourth time. But it’s really great to go out and get a sweep [in the district title game] in my senior year. When we hit rough patches, we just tell each other we can get out of if. One pass, one kill … we work together.”
Hassel and friends didn’t hit many “rough patches” in Saturday’s win. In fact, Southern (17-7) never had a lead bigger than three points at any point throughout the match.
“We came out really strong,” Notre Dame coach Cassidy Roney said. “This is my first year coaching, so for us to get a district championship is special in the first place. But for us to come out and do that in three [sets], it makes it that much more special.”
The Tornadoes took a 3-0 lead in the first set and held early advantages of 7-4 and 10-7. But the Titans (22-3) tied the game at 10-10 and ripped off a 6-1 run to go up 16-11 en route to a 25-16 match-opening win.
That 6-1 run set the tone for the remainder of the game.
With the count tied 6-6 in the second set, Hassel, Taylor Schmidt and Chloe Delebar led their team on a 10-3 run to go up 16-9. From that point on, it was smooth sailing to a 2-0 match lead thanks to a dominant 25-11 win.
The Titans led 17-9 in the third set but then surrendered an 8-0 scoring run as Southern forced a 17-17 tie. But Notre Dame never relinquished its lead, taking leads of 21-19 and 23-20 before ending the Tornadoes’ season for good.
Schmidt led the team statistically with nine kills, two aces and 22 digs. Hassel added seven kills and 22 digs to the mix, Ava Hassel posted four kills, four aces and 15 digs, Cassie Schaefer finished with 21 assists, and Joyce Zheng ended with 16 digs.
While Saturday’s win was impressive, there’s still work to be done.
“We need to work on our serve receive a little more and capitalizing on the free points that our opponents give us,” Hassel said. “It’s just working together more. Communication is big, too.”
Next up for Notre Dame is a Division IV regional semifinal match against Newark Catholic at 6 p.m., Thursday at Bloom-Carroll High School. The Green Wave, which swept Delaware Christian Saturday, will enter the match at 17-6 overall.
“I have some high school experience from the regional tournament and a lot of my girls have the same type of experience,” Roney said. “So it isn’t going to be new, especially to our seniors. So that will certainly help us to not be as nervous at that level.”