CROWLEY — The St. Thomas More volleyball team remained undefeated Monday night when it defeated Notre Dame 3-0 (25-20, 25-22, 25-23) in a contest much closer than the sweep victory would indicate.
The Cougars (24-0, 2-0 District II-1) staved off the pesky Pios (20-5, 4-0 District IV-2) in three tight sets in which the two teams produced a combined 29 tie scores and 13 lead changes while neither team led by more than five points in the match.
“I’m really proud of the way we finished tonight,” St. Thomas More coach Jessica Burke said. “They were right there neck-and-neck with us right there all the way up to about 20 points in each set, and we were able to close out the sets.”
St. Thomas More got off to a hot start in the first set, scoring the first four points, but the Pios quickly responded with five consecutive points, setting the pace for the remainder of the contest.
The remainder of the set went back-and-forth, with neither team gaining more than a three-point advantage. Trailing 17-16, the Cougars rattled off a 9-3 run, winning the first set 25-20 and taking a one-set advantage.
The second set proved to be even closer, as the teams tallied 14 ties and seven lead changes while staying within two points of each other for virtually the entire set.
Again, the Cougars prevailed in the end, scoring the final three points for a 25-22 set victory for a 2-0 lead.
Despite trailing by two sets and losing the leadership of coach Tara Young to a bout of vertigo, the Pios never backed down.
“We showed a lot of fight, we showed a lot of heart,” said assistant coach Brad Petry, who took the helm for the third set in place of Young. “We played hard until the end. It would have been easy for us to roll over in that third set and just give it away, but we didn’t. We showed a lot of character.”
Notre Dame led a majority of the third set as it looked to give St. Thomas More its first set loss in eight contests, but it could never extend its lead past four points, allowing the Cougars to once again mount a late-set comeback and tie things at 19.
The two teams proceeded to trade points until St. Thomas More went up 21-20 for its first lead in the set since leading 3-2, and they would not concede that lead on its way to the 25-23 match-clinching victory.
The contest ended in peculiar fashion when, trailing 24-23, Notre Dame seemingly earned a set-tying kill on a ball near the sideline. But after protest from Burke and deliberation between the two referees, the point was replayed, and the Cougars took advantage by earning the game-winning point.
This led to an altercation between an irate Petry and the officials that resulted in Petry receiving a red card, which would normally have led to his ejection from the contest had it not already ended.
Despite the outburst, Petry seemed gracious in defeat after having some time to cool down, and saying he was proud of the way the Pios battled and that the entire game will serve as a learning tool for the future.
“We did some things tonight that we haven’t done all year long against a top-notch team,” Petry said. “I’m certainly happy with the way we fought and competed. … We’re still a pretty young team, and we’re getting better every day, so I’m encouraged by a lot of things that I saw tonight.”