Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
Shoot yourself in the foot. That may have been the motto of the North Adams Lady Devils varsity volleyball squad on Aug. 25 as they played host to one of the top teams in southeast Ohio in the Portsmouth Notre Dame Lady Titans. There is little margin for error when you tangle with a team as talented as the Lady Titans and the Lady Devils were far too generous on the night, handing over 14 service errors to their guests and suffering something that is rare for the North Adams program, a loss in straight sets, as Notre Dame prevailed 29-27, 25-20, 25-17.
“We served way too many balls out tonight,” said North Adams head coach Katie Ragan. “We are trying to be more offensive minded with our serves and with Notre Dame very good at setting up their middles, we wanted to make it hard for them to pass the serve. We just needed to execute the plan a little better.”
Fans on both sides anticipated this match up for weeks and the first set of the night did not disappoint as the two teams battled into the volleyball version of overtime. Things looked good early for the home team as the serves of Abby Campton gave them a quick 4-0 advantage. The Lady Titans came charging back, getting a trio of service points from Lexi Smith to take a 7-6 lead. The rest of the set was back and forth, with each fighter looking for that little edge.
The score remained within two-three points with the Lady Devils staying close behind kills from Madison Jenkins and Charlee Louden and a later service error from the home team put Notre Dame up 20-19. The two sides began trading points with the Lady Titans grabbing a 24-23 lead, forcing Ragan to use her timeout at set point. It worked as North Adams got the next two points to earn a set point of their own, but a Notre Dame timeout was equally as effective as the visitors tied the score at 25. The Lady Devils took the lead twice at 36-25, then 27-26, but it was the Lady Titans getting the final three points of the set to take an exciting 29-27 win.
Notre Dame was fast out of the gate in set number two, taking a quick 3-0 lead on the serves of Ali Smith. The Lady Devils fought back, getting a kill and ace from Jenkins to even the set at 6 apiece. With the score tied at 7, Sydney Kendall fired off four straight service points to give her team its biggest lead of the set. Slowly, the Lady Titans began to chip away at the North Adams advantage as the ladies from Portsmouth seemed to get to every ball and sometimes look like they had 12 players on the court.
After a long volley, a point went to Notre Dame to give them a 16-15 lead, which they later increased to 20-17. At 23-19, Ragan called another timeout, but with the Lady Titans leading 24-20, Louden uncharacteristically hit her serve into the net and Notre Dame had a commanding two sets to none lead.
That end of the second set seemed to take the air out of the North Adams sails as they just plain didn’t play well in the third. Notre Dame jumped out to a 5-1 lead behind the serves of Hagen Schaefer and really never looked back. The Lady Titans stayed in control for the entire set, stretching their lead at one point to 19-9. With Kendall again at the service line, the Lady Devils flashed a little bit of lie, pulling back to within 21-16, but at set and match point, Louden again banged her serve into the net and the Lady Titans had claimed the third set 25-17 and the match, three sets to none.
“”Notre Dame is a very good team, tall and experienced,” said Coach Ragan. We have a tough non-league schedule because we want to play teams like Notre Dame. It points out our weaknesses and all of the areas that we need to improve on.”
On the North Adams stat line, Kendall led the way with 30 assists and 7 digs, while Louden contributed 12 kills and 15 digs.
The Lady Devils were back in action on Tuesday, Aug. 30 and back on their home court with their first Southern Hills Athletic Conference match of the year, hosting the Fayetteville Lady Rockets. A busy week continues on Thursday and Friday as North Adams stays in conference play, hosting Fairfield on Thursday, and traveling to Whiteoak on Friday.