Pandas play with purpose

Pandas play with purpose

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Pandas play with purpose

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St. Henry players, from left, senior Janelle Tobler, senior Kassidy Schreiber and junior Paige Noble celebrate a point.

St. Henry players, from left, senior Janelle Tobler, senior Kassidy Schreiber and junior Paige Noble celebrate a point.

NDA sophomore Natalie Hardig, 11, goes for the kill.

NDA sophomore Natalie Hardig, 11, goes for the kill.

The Crusader and Panda mascots go at it during a time out.

The Crusader and Panda mascots go at it during a time out.

Notre Dame senior Madison Salkowski, 19, leads the celebration after a Pandas point.

Notre Dame senior Madison Salkowski, 19, leads the celebration after a Pandas point.

CRESTVIEW HILLS The Notre Dame Academy volleyball team has big dreams this month as it will soon begin the hunt for an elusive state title.

After beating St. Henry in three straight sets in a match that was decisive and generally devoid of drama, the Pandas were thrilled to be part of a special atmosphere. Set scores were 25-12, 25-17, 25-15.

“We wanted to do the small things tonight,” said NDA head coach Buck McCoart said. “Know our jobs, fulfill our assignments, cover our hitters, and I think we really did a good job of that.”

The teams had their annual late-season matchup in Thomas More College’s Connor Convocation Center in front of a standing-room only crowd. The match raised money for breast cancer research. Students from both schools wore pink T-shirts with the game’s Playing for a Purpose slogan. The players kept their usual uniforms in storage and donned jerseys that were a mix of pink and black.

“I loved competing,” said junior hitter Sarah Draud. “It was fun and it’s for a great cause. I love the spirt everyone has for this great cause. Everybody can come together, no matter win or lose. “

The Pandas gradually built a steady lead in each set, although the Crusaders rallied to within one point in set two, 17-16.

“It was great,” McCoart said. “We wanted to be the more experienced team. We have eight seniors, girls who have been here two or three times before and experienced this game. I wanted them to be able to handle the noise and the emotion.”

The Pandas had a balanced attack. Senior Madison Salkowski led the way with 11 kills. Draud had 10, senior Morgan Hentz nine, sophomore Natalie Hardig eight and senior Hanna Knaley six. Hardig had five blocks. Senior setter Hannah Talkers posted 38 assists.

Hentz led the defense with 18 digs. Junior Jackie Holl had 13 digs and senior Hannah Colvin 11. Draud’s 10 kills were a season-high.

“That was the best game she’s had all season,” McCoart said. “She had a high percentage. A younger kid on our team, she’s a junior, but she really stepped up tonight.”

St. Henry dropped to 18-6 and will take aim at the 34th District title to start things next week. The Pandas close the season with a home match against state power Louisville Assumption. NDA is 26-4 for the season, with all four losses coming in six matches against the power three of Louisville (Assumption, Mercy, Sacred Heart).

“I think we’re right up there with the rest of those teams,” the coach said. “Anybody can beat anybody so it will go down to who is playing the best at the end.”

Follow James on Twitter, @JWeberSports

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Pandas play with purpose

Notre Dame beat St. Henry in front of a sellout crowd at Thomas More

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