GLASFORD — Quincy Notre Dame High School’s smooth-running offense took a game to get going, but when it did, it roughed up reigning Class 2A state champion Eureka in the Illini Bluffs Super-Sectional on Thursday.
The result was a 23-25, 25-20, 25-16 victory for the Raiders (32-8), who will face Newton (31-7) in a noon state tournament semifinal at Redbird Arena next Friday. The Hornets, who were trying to win their fifth super-sectional, ended the season at 30-8.
Notre Dame, which has won 14 super-sectionals, couldn’t contain Hailey Flowers and Courtney Heffren in game one, but once the Raiders settled down, they took off.
“Quincy Notre Dame is a really good team,” said Eureka coach Tracy Heffren. “It’s one of those teams you can never take lightly. I thought our girls fought all night long and played to the very last point.
“I think our passing kind of went away from us a little bit. We weren’t able to get the sets that we wanted.”
Making the Elite Eight with a one-senior squad that had only three veterans back from last year made Eureka’s coach understandably proud.
“Their goal was to get back to where we were last year,” Heffren said. “We just came one game short.”
The first game saw Notre Dame grab an 8-4 lead, but the Hornets used a 6-1 run to go up 10-9. Eureka still had a 14-13 advantage when a back-row kill from Flowers ignited a 9-4 flurry the Raiders never overcame. A Courtney Heffren kill provided game point.
Eureka had a promising start in game two, going up 4-1 and 10-7, but Notre Dame rallied to force four ties before going on a 9-4 game-ending run. Sophomore Sydney Hummert, nicknamed the “Sorcerer,” provided game point with one of her match-high 18 kills.
“She can hit a lot of balls other kids can’t,” said Raiders coach Rich Meyer. “The best hitter in the world can’t hit the ball unless you have a team putting it there. We’ve been to state before, but I really didn’t think we could do it this year.”
They did it with stellar blocking.
“They were able to get a lot of hands on balls and we weren’t covering very well,” Coach Heffren said. “We got a little bit rattled at that point.”
Notre Dame bolted to a 5-0 lead in game three, but a kill by Eureka’s lone senior, Maddie McCunn, later pulled the Hornets within 9-8. The Raiders rattled off the next four points and the Hornets never got within two the rest of the way. Monica Brown swatted down match point.
“In the second set, we just didn’t stay focused,” said Flowers, who led Eureka with 14 kills. “In the third set, we let them get on a long run and we didn’t come back and terminate the ball right away.”
Courtney Heffren finished with 13 kills while Lauren Ausmus had two blocks. McCunn provided 29 assists and Katie Morin had 20 digs.
“They are a good team,” Meyer said. “They came out the first game and they just didn’t make any mistakes. I don’t know how much better you can play than what they played the first game. Our blocking got a lot better the last two games.”
Notre Dame, which has six seniors, received 19 assists and two aces from Maddie Peters while Hannah Peters had 20 digs. Meredith Siebers chipped in four blocks.
“That last game I saw some extra effort out of a number of our players,” Meyer said. “That really makes a big difference when that happens.”