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Notre Dame volleyball headed in right direction

Sophomore middle blocker Kate Rubel led Notre Dame volleyball with 29 kills through three games in the SEMO Conference Tournament last week. Photo by Jay Forness

Last week at the Cape Girardeau SportsPlex, the Notre Dame volleyball team ended up three points shy of reaching the SEMO Conference Tournament Championship match.

The Bulldogs (19-5-3) ended up falling to Class 3 District 1 opponent Saxony Lutheran (17-4) at 2-1 (23-25, 25-18, 22-25) in the tournament semifinals. Two of the last few points Saxony scored in the match were 50-50 plays, where the referee could’ve easily given the point to Notre Dame.

“We started off a little slower than they did, which doesn’t always help,” Notre Dame sophomore middle blocker Kate Rubel said. “But we came out in that second set ready to go.”

Nonetheless, the Bulldogs moved on to the third-place match and defeated conference foe Cape Central (9-9-1) via a 2-0 shutout (25-17, 29-27). Notre Dame started the tournament with a 2-0 win (25-15, 25-13) over Sikeston (5-15-2).

Rubel recorded a match-high 11 kills versus the Tigers, while she also had the same number of digs as she has been splitting time between playing in the front and back row. Rubel led Notre Dame in kills throughout the entire conference tournament, posting a total of 29 through three matches.

Against Saxony, Kate produced a team-high 11 kills and seven digs. Rubel started the tournament with a team-high seven kills and also had the same amount of digs versus Sikeston.

Following conference, Notre Dame took second in the Lutheran South Tournament Saturday and then handed Class 1 powerhouse Advance (20-1-2) its first loss of the season at 3-2 (25-16, 18-25, 25-13, 19-25, 16-14) Monday.

While playing in both the front and back row in just her second season of varsity, Rubel is far and away Notre Dame’s leader in kills with 283 (recorded 258 all of last season) and has notched the fourth-most digs at 168.

Kate also leads the Bulldogs in hitting percentage (.295) and has the second-most aces behind fellow sophomore setter Claudia Jones (42) with 33.

“I like my role a lot — I’ve always been that kind of person to take it and use it anyway I can,” Rubel said. “With the help of my teammates, I’ve adjusted well to the back row. Playing in the back row has been a little different, but I also really enjoy it. [Not getting out of the game] has been very enjoyable because I love being on the court — I don’t like being off.”

Also coming up big this season has been fellow middle blocker junior Courtney Tatum, who rotates in the front and back row with Kate as neither player ever subs out of a match.

Tatum paces Rubel with 211 kills and a .282 hitting percentage, while she actually leads Notre Dame in total blocks with 69 to Kate’s 39 and is also the leader in serve receptions at 298.

Third in total blocks behind both of these 6-footers is Rubel’s twin sister 5-9 sophomore defensive specialist Brie Rubel with 25 blocks of her own, while she leads Notre Dame in digs at 305. Brie also paces Tatum in serve receptions with 268 and is third overall in aces at 29.

At conference, Tatum recorded 10 kills, four blocks and 19 service receptions against Saxony. Courtney finished the tournament with seven kills, nine digs and eight serve receptions versus the Tigers.

As for Brie, she helped the Bulldogs secure third place with 16 digs, seven serve receptions and two aces in the win over Cape. Rubel also registered 17 serve receptions and one block versus Saxony.

One thing that sets The Rubel Twins apart is that Kate describes herself as “the loud one.” Kate can often be seen hyping her fellow teammates up or celebrating after a big play of her own.

“I love playing with Brie — we can both yell at each other and it’s fine,” Kate laughed. “We both go for everything, so it’s always fun to see who gets it.”

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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