Those expectations were met and exceeded when the Lady Pios capped a 44-3 overall record with a four-game victory over Ursuline Saturday in the Division III state finals.
“There was a lot of pressure on this team from the get-go,” said ND coach Tara Young. “People were saying all kinds of crazy stuff back in August like ‘this is going to be the team to beat’.
“It’s hard to maintain your level of play for that long when that much is expected of you. But our kids really stepped up and our level of play all year was pretty outstanding.”
The Lady Pios were nearly unstoppable all season long, their only three occurring in tournament play. The Lady Pios lost twice to Dominican, the 2010 Division I state runnersup, in the New Orleans tournament, and once to St. Joseph in the Episcopal tournament.
“That’s a little bit different because you only play the best two out of three,” said Young of the losses. “But our record is kind of mind blowing. Like I said, it’s really difficult to maintain a consistent level of play for that many matches and the fact that this team was able to do that is amazing.”
Notre Dame’s level of play was outstanding throughout the season and it rose to new heights once the postseason started.
The Lady Pios received a bye in the first round of the postseason and then cruised to the title game by knocking off Livonia, Teurlings and St. Louis, all in straight sets.
“Ever since team camp at UL-Lafayette in August, we just never looked back,” said Young. “We just continued to get better. We just continued to improve our level of play.
“We were really hitting on all cylinders heading into the playoffs. We just felt like we had enough weapons and were confident that we could come at you from a lot of different ways that would make it tough on teams and I think that was apparent.”
Saturday’s championship victory avenged last year’s loss to Ursuline in the finals and now gives the Lady Pios their second state title in four years.
“This year, our team went in with a whole different demeanor,” said Young of the championship game. “Last year we were extremely nervous and a bit flustered. This year, the girls, led by our seniors, were clear in their focus and extremely determined and we were able to push through unlike last year.
“This is just unbelievable and it’s still just amazing to me. I’m just so proud of the girls, all of them that have come through here. The last four years we’ve just really pushed and now Notre Dame volleyball is sitting at the top pretty consistently and it’s a remarkable feeling and a remarkable feat.”