GRAND COTEAU — When Notre Dame’s Grace Morgan controls the net area, the Pioneers are usually a portrait of intimidation.
It certainly began that way Wednesday night as the NDHS middle hitter attacked The Academy of The Sacred Heart-Grand Coteau with early kills that aided the Pioneers sweep of the nondistrict volleyball match 25-10, 25-20, 25-20.
Morgan, a tall junior, finished the match with 17 kills, four blocks and three aces.
NDHS volleyball coach Tara Young said Morgan frequently sets the tone for her team, which improved to 7-7.
“The games in which we have played well are the ones where she’s taken over,” Young said. “It puts a lot less stress on our defense and we play better.”
Morgan was especially dominating in the first set, when she recorded four kills and two blocks.
ASH coach Megan McCown said her team was forced to make several adjustments for Morgan. Some of those adjustments began to take effect by the third set.
“We began to go to some double blocking go around (Morgan). She’s a good player and Notre Dame is a good team,” said McCown, whose team dropped to 8-5.
The Pioneers led 18-10 in the initial set and then, with Morgan serving, won the next seven points.
Notre Dame was aided during that run by a kill and block from outside hitter Lauren Cramer and a key kill from Olivia Barbin.
In the second set, the Saints raced to a 5-0 lead behind the serving of senior Jennifer Link.
A kill from Cramer aided Morgan’s serving in that set as the Pioneers won eight of the next 10 points to take an 8-7 advantage. Notre Dame never trailed after that.
ASH trailed 17-11 in the set but pulled within three points after a kill from Kathleen Boulet.
Morgan served to get the Pioneers to 20-14, but the Saints re-established some late momentum behind the serving of St. Joseph Academy sophomore transfer Erin Mockler to pull within 22-18.
Notre Dame took a 12-3 lead in the final set behind Morgan (two blocks, one kill) and Barbin (one kill).
The Pios’ Haley Bellard served seven consecutive points, while Morgan, aided by another Cramer kill, served the Pios to the nine- point lead.
Boulet got the Saints back into the set with a kill, and Maci Quebedeaux served to get ASH to 13-10. Hailey Gauthier’s kill cut the NDHS lead further (14-13), but the Pios won the next four points.
McCown said she admired her team’s tenacity, especially after the 15-point loss in the first set.
“I thought we really showed up and battled all the way,” McCown said. “I think we showed we’re not scared anymore of playing Notre Dame. In the past we’ve played (Notre Dame), and it would be a different feeling.”
Young said this year’s team is a contrast to the one that finished as the Division IV runner-up last season.
“A totally different team,” Young said. We’re a lot smaller and younger than we were. I think, though, that we have a lot to build on.”