PAYSON, Ill. -- The Quincy Notre Dame volleyball team learned on Wednesday night something its coach already knew.
Old champions die hard.
Payson Seymour lost the first set 25-12 and was down eight points in the second set, but the defending Class 1A champs rallied to win 25-22 and force a third set. The Indians were as close as 8-8 before finally losing to the powerful Raiders 25-15.
The match was sloppy at times, with the teams combining for 33 hitting errors, five rotation errors and 14 serving errors. However, a large crowd filled a small Payson gym that holds the noise well, and fans were treated to inspired play from two of the best teams in West-Central Illinois.
"I love coming here," said QND coach Courtney Kvitle, an assistant on last year's Payson Seymour team. "It was fun. It's just a good atmosphere."
Monica Brown had a block and three kills in a six-point run in the first set that helped QND take command. The Indians then seemed to be on the verge of falling apart in the second set. Two serving errors, two rotation errors, three hitting errors and a set that simply dropped to the floor helped the visitors grab an 11-3 lead, forcing a timeout.
"I liked that, even though we came out flat and it could have went horribly, the girls didn't let that happen," Indians coach Teresa Loos-Tedrow said. "Give credit to the girls. They're all fighters."
Riley Epperson, one of three starters back from the state title squad, had a difficult start. Before the timeout, she had five hitting errors, was blocked twice for points and saw QND blockers get their hands on several of her kill attempts.
Epperson changed her method and started tipping. She finished the match with 13 kills, but seven of them were on tips.
"You've got to be smart," she said. "If something's not working, something else does."
"After a while, we kind of got the hint that Riley might be tipping," QND's Sydney Hummert said.
At the same time, QND went into a funk. Thirteen Raiders errors in the second set allowed the Indians to take the lead at 20-19.
"They started to manipulate us a little bit, which is expected, and we started to fall apart a little bit, and that's normal," Kvitle said. "Payson plays with a lot of heart, and you have to battle every single play. If you start slipping, they're going to take advantage of it. That's what's great about their game."
Junior Hadley Schmiedeskamp had just two kills in the match until she had kills on the 23rd and 25th points to close the set.
"For her to go up swinging like she did, as a junior with very little playing experience, was absolutely amazing," Tedrow-Loos said.
QND (9-1) took command of the third set when Taylor Keck had two kills and Hummert had two from the back row as part of an 8-1 run that made the score 16-9. Hummert finished with 14 kills, with 10 of them coming after the mid-point of the second set.
"I never tell the girls to get her the ball. That's something they dictate on the court," Kvitle said. "But you know, she's a point scorer, and it's a tough game and we need points. She's going to get the ball."
The Indians (8-5) didn't help themselves with five hitting errors, five service errors and two other errors in the third set.
"I kept telling the girls they might go down, but don't go down without a fight," Tedrow-Loos said. "It was a win for us. I had some new girls on the court who stepped up in that kind of atmosphere."
Hummert was all smiles after the victory as well.
"It was fun," she said. "The energy was up, and it really helps us. Tonight was just awesome. We showed Coach that we could put it down and play."