DAYTON, Ohio — Padua showed why it is the top-ranked high school volleyball team in the country on Friday afternoon, taking down nationally ranked Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame in the Division I state semifinals.
The Bruins, ranked No. 1 in two national polls, outlasted Mount Notre Dame, 29-27, 26-28, 25-19, 25-19 at Wright State University’s Nutter Center.
Padua, 28-0, will face Columbus DeSales in the championship match at 3 p.m. Saturday. DeSales swept past Solon in the other semi, 25-10, 25-18, 25-21.
Mount Notre Dame, ranked No. 2 in the state, is the most successful volleyball program in Ohio, having won a record nine state titles. The Bruins will be going for their sixth. They also will be attempting to become the 38th volleyball team in Ohio history to be an undefeated state champion.
Padua withstood the powerful attack of the Lions, who had 64 kills. However, MND also had 28 hitting errors. The Lions were led by the 1-2 combo of Carly Hendrickson with 26 kills and Mikaela Coffey with 21. But they also combined for 19 errors, the same number as the entire Padua squad.
The Bruins countered with a balanced attack led by Ella Mihacevich. The senior had 41 assists, 10 kills, 7 digs, 5 blocks and 2 aces. Maria Futey led the hitters with 17 kills and just two errors. She also had 11 digs. Samantha Ott added 11 kills, 10 digs and 3 aces. Katie Thompson led all players with 33 digs.
It’s fitting that the final point of the match came on an ace by Amanda Leigh, because serving is where the Bruins had a huge advantage. Ott and Leigh each had three aces, while Mihacevich had two and Futey and Thompson each had one. Just as importantly, Padua only had four service errors. Mount Notre Dame had four aces and seven service errors.
The first two sets were quite similar, with Padua jumping to relatively big leads, only to have the Lions scratch their way back in. The Bruins appeared to be cruising in the opening set with a 16-9 advantage, but MND fought back to tie it at 23. The Lions were serving for the set, but after a Padua timeout, Jordan Chessar got a kill to tie it at 27 and then served out the final two points.
Again, Padua led by seven in the second set, 12-5, but the Lions battled back to take the lead, 17-16. Mount Notre Dame was one point away from the set, but Ott came up with consecutive aces to knot the score at 24.
Eventually, Hendrickson and Coffey sandwiched kills around a hitting error by Futey as the Lions scored the final three points of the set.
The third and fourth sets were much more back-and-forth affairs until Padua took over midway through. Padua, which had six players with five or more kills, spread the ball around in each set. Leigh, who was the server during several Padua runs in the match, served the final points in both sets.