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No. 6 NDP volleyball scores impressive win over No. 10 St. Paul's

Anna Carmen and her Notre Dame Prep teammates had a lot of distractions to put behind them at St. Paul's Wednesday afternoon. They were up to the task.

The No. 6 Blazers recorded their most impressive win of the season, spoiling the Gators' senior day. NDP's 28-26, 25-20, 25-21 win spoke to the quality of the match.

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"All we wanted to do was win," said Carmen (26 assists). "We had so many things working against us, and we put a good effort together."

So what, exactly, did they have to overcome? Well, in addition to playing at St. Paul's senior day, the Blazers (10-0) were playing with a back-up libero, Natalie Garinther, after the starter was injured before the game on Wednesday. They also had other things on their mind.

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"We were playing today for our classmate, Claire Wagonhurst," Garinther said. "She passed away earlier this week, and we have dedicated our season to her memory."

It was apparent right from the start that NDP was playing with passion. The Blazers built a 12-6 lead in the first set, and used two kills by Francesca Zink and another two by Marisa DeLuca to build a 20-14 lead. The No. 10 Gators (7-5), led by Jillian Randolph's three kills, got an ace and a block by Bella Pivec to outscore NDP 11-5 and eventually tie the set, 25-25. After the teams traded points, the Blazers got a kill by Grace Stromberg and a tip by DeLuca to take the first set, 28-26.

Notre Dame Prep built an early lead in the second set, but St. Paul's came charging back and tied the score, 14-14. Again, NDP responded. The Blazers used the serving of Brooke Newell (7 kills) and Garinther to take a 24-18 lead. After a brief St. Paul's rally, a serving error by the Gators capped a 25-20 NDP victory.

The third set saw NDP take another early lead, only to lose momentum. St. Paul's used a long rally to cut the lead to 20-19, and force NDP coach Jim Isphording to call time out. The break seemed to settle the Blazers down, and the team responded and outscored the Gators 5-2 the rest of the way to take the match.

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"You could tell we really wanted it," Isphording said. "We played some of our best ball of the year today. Our libero today is usually our outside hitter, and the team was carrying a heavy chest [because of Wagonhurst]. They overcame every obstacle because of their desire. You can't teach desire."

The two teams may very well see each other next week in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference playoffs. The Blazers are the top seed, while St. Paul's will be seeded second. The Blazers were the prohibitive favorite in last year's tournament before losing to Mount de Sales in the semifinals. St. Paul's, the second seed, went on to win the championship.

"We have a lot to prove," Isphording said. "We have six seniors on our team and they remember that loss. I think we have a team that can do it all. Hopefully we're peaking at just the right time."

6 Notre Dame Prep d 10 St. Paul's, 28-26, 25-20, 25-21.

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