Sailors refuse to lose in pivotal sets

by Nelson Coffin

Notre Dame Prep just could not get over the hump against Mount de Sales in a tussle for first place in the IAAM A Conference volleyball standings Monday evening in Catonsville.

Or, to put it another way, the Sailors (7-1, 5-0 conference) refused to lose when facing a 22-18 deficit in the third set and found a way to emerge with the win after overcoming an even more precarious position in the pivotal fifth set.

Trailing, 14-11, the hosts used a kill from freshman outside hitter Mary Grace Goyena, a pair of aces by senior setter Camille Kreisel and a kill by senior outside hitter Hanna Katulski to close the set and the match on a 5-0 run to prevail, 25-8, 16-25, 29-27, 25-27, 16-14, while sweeping the season series from the Blazers by identical 3-2 scores.

Katulski’s ninth kill of the match finished off NDP (5-3 4-2), at least for now, and put her team in the driver’s seat for the top seed and a first-round bye in the postseason playoffs that begin Oct 24.

She said she was not thinking too much before swinging at the ball.

“To quote my grandfather, he said, ‘Just get the ball over the net,’ “ Katulski said with a smile. “I always try to make the most aggressive plays.”

Katulski also chipped in three aces and was 12 for 13 serving.

Goyena, whose emphatic kill ended the 29-27 comeback in the third set, was the main focal point of the Mount de Sales’ attack.

She recorded 21 kills while putting all 31 of her serves in play with a whopping 15 aces.

Kreisel (6/18 serving, 3 aces) contributed a robust 28 assists to the victory.

Blending Goyena and fellow freshmen Chidinma Onukwugha (middle hitter) and Kelsey Miller (setter/defensive specialist) with the juniors and seniors on the roster has been an easier transition than expected.

“Chidinma, Mary Grace and I work really well together,” Katulski said about her comrades on the front row. “They bring a lot of volleyball I.Q. to the team from playing club ball.”

Senior stalwarts Katulski and Kreisel, though, are the emotional leaders for Mount de Sales coach Tuan Nguyen’s team.

“Camille helps me keep my head on straight,” Katulski said. “We have a good balance. I’m more of the vocal leader and sh’e quiet.”

For the defending champion Blazers, it was a match that was there for the taking.

“This was our season in a nutshell,” NDP coach Jim Isphording said. “We have the athletes that can do it, but we just need more experience to learn how to close people out. It’s frustrating, but I know we can do it. The more they play together, the better they’ll be.”

Seniors Mary Norris (21 assists) and Erin Grace (5 aces), junior Julia Franzoni (9 kills, 8 aces, 6 digs) and sophomores Helen Stafford (6 digs) and Hannah Einbrod (5 kills, 7 blocks) led the way for NDP.

Einbrod’s block secured the second set for the Blazers and a pair of Franzoni kills and a Stafford ace turned a 25-24 deficit into a 27-25 triumph in the fourth set for NDP.