(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
CAPE GIRARDEAU -- Forced to fight back from an early deficit in both sets on Wednesday, the visiting Sikeston Lady Bulldogs fell to the Notre Dame Lady Bulldogs 25-17, 25-10.
"They can give up a point here or there and maintain their focus because they know they have a lot of weapons," Sikeston head coach Steve Beydler said of Notre Dame. "They have a lot of weapons and they dig and pass well.
"We, on the other hand, struggle at times with that and it showed tonight some. But other times we made some digs and some other plays that I was pleased with."
Forced in to an early 9-4 hole to open the first set, Sikeston (13-15) was able to take four of the next six points to close to within two points at 10-8 on a kill from Jalen Peet.
Taking the next four points, however, Notre Dame (17-6) quickly started to pull away again until, at 17-10, Sikeston was forced to call a timeout.
After the break, Sikeston battled back to within six points at 20-14 and hung around until a kill from Notre Dame's Miranda Fowler set up match up at 24-17. One play later, a kill from Kate Edwards sealed the set.
"I told the girls I was pretty pleased with their performance in the first game," said Beydler. "(I told the girls) you had some moments where you weren't really talking very well as a team, but overall the one thing we were lacking was a big determination.
"We were digging the ball, we had a couple blocks and we had moments where we looked really good against a really good, high-powered team."
Coming back out for the second set, another hot start from Notre Dame force Sikeston to call its first timeout of the game when they trailed 7-2. Shortly later, an ace from Asia Liggins and a kill from Trenice Greer helped Sikeston reel off five-straight points to close to within three at 10-7.
From that point on, however, the game belonged to Notre Dame as they rolled to a 20-9 lead before an ace forced Sikeston to call its final timeout.
With Sikeston unable to rebound, Notre Dame got an ace from Dani Roosman before back-to-back kills from Brooke Bohnert and Edwards set up match point. Shortly after the next serve, Bohnert and Edwards teamed to block a Sikeston kill attempt for the game-winning point.
"When (Sikeston) called that last timeout in the second game I said let's play four clean points," Notre Dame head coach Tara Stroup said. "No unforced mistakes, just finish clean with good sets, good passes and good swings and finish strong. I thought we did a good job finishing up the second game."
Though Sikeston rallied to get out of a big hole early, Beydler said things started to break down again when Notre Dame went on another run.
"The wheels just started to fall off again," said Beydler. "Two-thirds of the way through (the second set) I could see the determination that they were having and the belief that maybe they can pull back into even again if nothing else started fading from their minds.
"They started having more and more moments where they let balls drop and didn't take that extra step like they were earlier."
For Sikeston, Peet had six kills, a dig and block with Greer contributing three kills, two digs and an ace. Liggins had three kills and a block. Monica Carter and Hannah Haynes tied for the team lead in digs with five each.
Leading Notre Dame, Edwards had six kills on the contest. She was followed by Fowler and Sarah Lawrence with five and four kills respectively. Shelby Dix had 12 assists and Olivia Roth had 14 digs.
"This is probably my strongest offensive that I've had in a long time," said Stroup. "But we have to put it all together with the passing and the setting. Sometimes we have a little bit of miscommunication, but for the most part if we get the pass and the set where they need to be we can pretty much put it to the floor."
Getting right back in to action, Sikeston will host the bracket play of the SEMO Conference tournament today with the goal of capturing its fourth-straight conference title.
Seeded first after going 3-0 in pool play on Tuesday, Sikeston will play the Charleston Lady Bluejays in the semifinals at 4 p.m.