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Notre Dame pulls out five-set thriller over Louisville Mercy to win volleyball state championship

By Chad Hensley
KyForward sports reporter

A 26-year drought ended on Saturday night for Notre Dame Academy, which won the state championship in volleyball during a five-set thriller against Louisville Mercy in Winchester.

Anna Long hammered down 20 kills as Notre Dame outlasted Mercy by scores of 21-25, 25-19, 25-22, 22-25, 15-13 at George Rogers Clark High School. Long also added 12 digs and two blocks to earn most valuable player honors of the state tournament.

Notre Dame outside hitter Anna Long (4) goes up for an attack against Mercy on Saturday night. (KHSAA photo)

“I just really felt like we could battle with Mercy, and we did just that,” Notre Dame head coach Molly McDermott said. “We just challenged our girls to stay in every point and that the next point was the most important point and to just stay in it. Kudos to them and we are super proud of them.

“We had some kids show up big tonight, including our sophomore middle Sydney Nolan, who had the match of her life. I kind of feared how our underclassmen were going to respond to a state championship game because we have not even been in the state championship since 2014 at Notre Dame. She was lights out tonight.”

Notre Dame finished with a 26-3 record and ended the season by winning its final 14 matches. It marked the first state championship for Notre Dame since 1994, when the Pandas defeated Mercy by scores of 12-15, 15-8, 15-13.

Both teams battled and hustled each play, with the final point coming off an attack by Mercy’s Fallan Lanham that was stuffed straight down by the Notre Dame duo of Cate Scheper and Abby Powers for a match-ending block.

In the 26 years since Notre Dame last won a state title, volleyball in the state of Kentucky had been dominated Louisville powerhouses Assumption, Mercy and Sacred Heart. Since 1994, Assumption claimed 20 state titles, Mercy won three championships and Sacred Heart hoisted the trophy twice.

The defeat was the fourth in as many years for Mercy in the state finals, as the Jaguars lost the previous three to Assumption.

Allison Holloway posted 20 kills to lead Mercy, which had knocked off three-time defending state champion Assumption on Friday. Lanham added 19 kills for the Jaguars, who finished with a 21-3 record.

Notre Dame jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the fourth set and later owned a 19-14 advantage, but Mercy mounted an improbable comeback to extend the match into a decisive fifth stanza.

Notre Dame defender Kamden Schrand recorded 14 digs against Mercy on Saturday. (KHSAA photo)

Mercy went on a 11-3 run that was sparked on by the defensive performance of Eleanor Beavin, the KVCA Defensive Player of the Year. Beavin, who collected a match-high 22 digs, kept Mercy alive by scooping up hard attacks in the fourth set. The big spurt ended when Elena Scott’s service ace gave Mercy a 25-22 win to force a fifth set.

Notre Dame and Mercy battled back-and-forth in the final set. Tied at 13-13, Scheper’s kill gave Notre Dame a 14-13 lead. Scheper and Powers then combined to block Lanham’s attack at match point, setting off a frenzied celebration by the Pandas.

“I think they executed the scouting report really well as we threw a lot on them with what we thought we could take advantage of,” McDermott said. “We knew that Mercy is really good team and that we were going to have to take advantage of the things that they gave us.”

Grace finished with 10 kills and 16 digs for Notre Dame. Bentley dished up a match-high 57 assists to go along with 11 digs. Scheper finished with 10 kills, while Nolan quietly collected 19 kills. Schrand scooped up 14 digs, while Emily Wichmann had a team-best 17 digs from her libero position.

Notre Dame had advanced to the state championship match with a 25-9, 25-15, 21-25, 25-16 win over West Jessamine in the tournament semifinals earlier on Saturday. Long finished with 16 kills and attacked at a .344 clip for Notre Dame, which hit .323 as a team.

Nolan slammed down 14 kills in 25 attempts without an error for a .560 hitting percentage. Powers also recorded 14 kills and hit .545 with four blocks. Notre Dame setter Bentley dished out 50 assists, while Schrand anchored the defense with 15 digs.

KHSAA All-Tournament team
McKenna Barfield (Russell)
Caroline Cermack (Assumption)
Katie Howard (Greenwood)
Jayda Harris (McCracken County)
Emma Shadwick (Henry Clay)
Abby Shadwick (Henry Clay)
Ava Gdovka (West Jessamine)
Emily Krintz (West Jessamine)
Fallan Lanham (Mercy)
Eleanor Beavin (Mercy)
Elena Scott (Mercy)
Emily Wichmann (Notre Dame)
Sydney Nolan (Notre Dame)
Most Valuable Player – Anna Long (Notre Dame)

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