A four-year journey from winless startup to postseason contender came to an abrupt end Friday afternoon in Hingham as the lost in straight sets, 3-0, to Notre Dame Academy in the opening round of the MIAA Girls’ Volleyball Division 1 south sectional tournament.
Thanks to a fast style of play and strong play at net, Notre Dame beat Stoughton 25-20, 25-12 and 25-11.
The Black Knights at 10-8, earning the in the 12-team bracket. Notre Dame Academy (13-6) earned the 7th seed.
The Cougars now advance to play at North Attleboro, the 2nd seed, on Tuesday. North Attleboro had a first round bye.
Stoughton won just seven games in their first three seasons combined, including zero in their inaugural season.
But in the program’s fourth year, the Black Knights gelled from a competitive standpoint, earning their , led by a core of four seniors who have been with the team from the beginning—Julia Quattrucci, Katherine Chlus, Malykah Lopes and Andrea Chica.
“I have a bunch of kids who worked hard all season. They accomplished everything I asked of them,” Stoughton coach Ken Gay said.
“In reality, this season was a blast. It’s too bad it has to end.”
Stoughton traveled well to support the team, with a number of students, parents, teachers and administrators taking in the program's first tournament game.
The two teams played a back-and-forth first set, before Notre Dame pulled away at the end.
Kayla Motley came up with a powerful hit to give Stoughton a 19-18 lead in the opening set, but Notre Dame scored seven of the final eight points to take the set 25-20.
Notre Dame coach Josh Shepherd said his team “showed a little youth and made some uncharacteristic errors” in the early going, but midway through the first set his team “calmed down” and he saw a “focused, confident group” the rest of the way.
The Cougars scored 57 of the final 81 points in the match.
Coach Gay said Notre Dame played the same style of offense as Stoughton did, albeit at a faster pace.
“They were much faster at net. They run a spread offense...[we were] not fast enough getting it outside,” Gay said.
“We played a ghost of ourselves. We [had] to slow them down for our plays to work.”
Notre Dame jumped out to big leads in the early parts of both the second and third sets. The Cougars built a 16-4 lead in the second en route to a 25-12 win.
In the third set, Stoughton got as close as 9-6 and 13-8, but Notre Dame scored 12 of the final 15 points, to win 25-11.
Coach Gay said his team came out “flat” in the second set.
“They got out to a quick start; established the tempo. We didn’t recover,” he said. “[When you’re] down two sets, it’s tough to come back.”
Audrey Bizak led the way for Notre Dame with 15 kills and zero errors. Julia Flynn and Randi Whitham also came up with key plays.
Coach Gay said there was “no shame” with the way his team played.
“The only shame is the season’s over,” he said.
In addition to Quattrucci, Chlus, Lopes and Chica, seniors and key contributors Nobrina Seng and Anthony Jeudy also played in their last match for the Black Knights.
“There’s a lot of girls in Stoughton who want to play volleyball [now],” Gay said. “It’s because of them.”
Photos by Justin Braga.