By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
Mary Beth Hugenberg hesitated to admit which song on her playlist is her favorite.
"Probably ‘Rock You like a Hurricane', just kinda the oldies," she sheepishly said.
Yet it doesn't matter how old "Rock You Like a Hurricane" by the Scorpions actually is -- it was recorded in 1984 by the way -- it still resonates loudly today.
And the vibe Hugenberg gets from it is exactly what the Quincy Notre Dame girls basketball team needs this week.
The Lady Raiders, ranked third in Class 3A with an 18-0 record, will face state-ranked foes on back-to-back-to-back with little chance for rest or preparation. Thursday, QND travels to St. Louis to face Nashville, ranked No. 2 in Class 2A with a 25-1 record, in the Coaches vs. Cancer Shootout at the Scottrade Center.
The Lady Raiders follow that up with a pair of games in the KHQA/Subway SuperFan Shootout at The Pit against Class 4A opponents, facing No. 5 Springfield (22-2) at 7 p.m. Friday and No. 3 Rolling Meadows (22-1) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
"You can look at it as an elite eight, final four and championship game if you want to look at it that way, and we're going to approach it that way," QND coach Eric Orne said.
"Realistically, it relies on what we did all year long."
It isn't the first time QND has faced high-caliber competition.
Back in December, the Lady Raiders scored a 47-42 victory over Columbia (Mo.) Rock Bridge, then ranked No. 1 in Missouri Class 5A and the defending state champion, at the Rumble on the River Shootout at John Wood Community College. At the time, it was the biggest game several of the Lady Raiders had played.
That's why Hugenberg, a 5-foot-10 junior forward, went to the Quincy Family YMCA hours before the game to burn off energy.
"I was just thinking, ‘In a couple of hours, I'm going to play in the biggest game I've ever played in my life. I need to get focused,'" Hugenberg said.
This stretch of games won't be much different.
"I just kind of think of all three of them as Rock Bridge games," said Hugenberg, whose older brother made her the musical playlist she listens to before games. "They are three really good games. You have to think about it like a Rock Bridge game every night."
The Lady Raiders also have to be diligent in their preparations. On Friday and Saturday, they will go through a shootaround and scouting report for each upcoming opponent the day of the game.
"We'll go in there and run through our sets and talk about the matchups on their team," said QND senior guard Kassidy Gengenbacher as the Lady Raiders look to continue a 68-game winning streak against Illinois teams. "I would feel unprepared if we didn't have anything that day. I really like having our shootarounds because we get to take a couple shots and talk about the makeup of their team. I think that relaxes a lot of us and helps us to calm down and know that we can do it, and (it) builds confidence going into the game."
Orne has done all he can to be prepared, too. Last Saturday, he traveled to watch Nashville play Breese Mater Dei, and Tuesday night, he scouted Springfield against Jacksonville.
He'll have to rely on game film to gauge Rolling Meadows.
So just how important is scouting? Knowing Edwardsville's tendencies helped QND score a 48-44 victory last February at The Pit when the Tigers were ranked in the top four in Class 4A and No. 43 nationally by ESPN.
"You sense their quickness. When you are on the court watching them, you see their strengths better," Orne said. "Sometimes on the game film, you don't see the little things they may do. We picked up quite a few things on Edwardsville by seeing them in person. I think to me it's something you have to do that's valuable as a coach. As the game goes on, you remember back to watching them what they may do, and it clicks in your mind."
Adjusting to the level of competition will be a seismic shift for QND from last week's Carrollton Tournament. The Lady Raiders won the tournament for the sixth straight year by outscoring their opponents 298-97.
"I feel like our team is a strong team, and it's easy to adjust," junior Hannah Marcolla said. "We go in from the tip of the game and play at our level. We don't sink to other team's level, and we play our game and we always play our game, and that's the key to our success."
QND also played ranked foes in three straight games in December of last season, picking up wins over Francis Howell Central (Mo.) and Linn-Mar (Iowa) before losing to Rock Bridge. That was over a span of four days, however.
Playing three days in three days is a new test. To hold up, QND will need its bench to contribute significant minutes.
"I think our five starters start with our energy, and we always talk about when we bring people off the bench they have to match our energy," Gengenbacher said. "We can't go down when we have new people come in. I think our bench will play a big part in our games over the next three days. They have to bring the energy that the starters come out with."
Listening to Hugenberg's playlist will get them ready for that.