Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
PORTSMOUTH — Ava Hassel presented a term on Thursday that her team has rallied around over the past week.
“Since the tournament has started, we’ve all went by that,” Hassel said. “Everyone has done that. [Winning tournament] games takes a lot of hard work and we have to be on our toes at all times. We have to cover our hitters and not give anyone easy points.”
In a Division IV district semifinal against Paint Valley, Notre Dame checked all of those boxes.
The Titans (18-4) used an energetic start to grab momentum early before battling to a four-set win over the visiting Bearcats by a 25-16, 25-19, 18-25, 25-21 final.
Notre Dame won the first set with relative ease.
Gracie Ashley and Ava Hassel led a 7-2 run to begin things before the lead swelled to counts of 14-6, 19-8 and 23-13. Eventually, Annie Dettwiller put the finishing touches on a 25-16 victory with one of her six kills on the night.
Dettwiller swung hard at the ball all evening, providing Notre Dame a viable third scoring option.
“I just go out there and swing as hard as I can,” Dettwiller said. “I don’t hold back and give it everything I’ve got. It’s taken a lot of learning this year to get better. We’ve started to work together more. Playing with [Claire Dettwiller and Ava] is so special. They’re huge role models for me. I just try to take after them and do what they do.”
In the second, after taking an early 6-3 advantage, the Titans allowed Paint Valley (7-16) to go ahead 10-9. But two serves later, ND had an 11-10 lead and never looked back. Chloe Delabar logged back-to-back kills to put the Titans up 23-17 before they sealed a 25-19 final.
However, in the third, the Bearcats showed signs of life.
Led by Averi McFadden, Olivia Smith, Abbi Stanforth and Kaitlin Potts, PV used a 10-1 run to take a 12-9 lead. The Titans inched closer to regaining a lead at 18-16 but the Bearcats ended the sequence on a 7-2 run to win 25-18.
After the loss, Notre Dame coach Cassidy Roney gathered her team together to regroup. Whatever she said had a significant impact in the fourth.
“[Roney] was just talking about how we can’t let them get on a run early,” Hassel said. “And there were a couple of times where we were on serve receive and we were getting in ruts. So we had to capitalize when one of the girls was serving and get out of that one fast. That was probably the key point. We had talked about not letting a ball drop and I think we did that well.”
Off to a fast start, the Titans went ahead 7-2 and never trailed. Delabar made it a 14-7 game, Claire Dettwiller later made it 20-17 and Hassel ended the night with a match-clinching kill.
Statistically, Hassel and Annie Dettwiller each had 10 kills and 20 assists while Claire Detwiller added 10 kills as well. Annie Dettwiller finished with 24 digs while Hassel added 20. Delabar finished with 13 kills and six digs.
For Paint Valley, Smith had a match-high 11 kills and 18 digs while McFadden finished with 10 kills and 19 digs. Stanforth tallied four kills, four aces and 17 digs, and Kendall Dye had 13 digs.
Notre Dame advances to a Division IV district final against South Webster at 3:30 p.m., Saturday at Southeastern. The Jeeps beat the Titans in the team’s previous meeting this season by a 25-17, 25-20, 25-12 final.
“We’re going to have to come into practice tomorrow and really work on seeing what [South Webster’s] weaknesses are,” Hassel said. “We played them the first game of they year and we’ve definitely improved tremendously since then. We just have to play like we played today. We gave so much effort.”