ND Volleyball: Conference returns to Irish hands
Meaghan Veselik | Monday, November 1, 2010
The Irish were spooked in Sunday’s fourth set against Connecticut as the Huskies tried to even up the match, but Notre Dame held strong and came back to celebrate Halloween with a 3-1 (25-21, 23-25, 25-16, 27-25) win after freshman setter Sammie Brown made an ace on match point.
Notre Dame (15-9, 8-3 Big East) also defeated Big East rival St. John’s 3-0 (25-16, 25-23, 25-17) on Saturday morning to make the weekend even more of a treat that also put the team back in control.
“This weekend was a solid performance for us,” Irish co-captain Angela Puente said. “One of the main things we learned about ourselves is that we have the talent to beat most of our opponents, and we can control the game by controlling the things we do on our side.”
The Irish out-hit both of their opponents this weekend. Notre Dame closed out Sunday with a .234 hitting percentage to the Huskies .193. On Saturday, the Irish hit at .305 while holding the Red Storm short at .117.
Sunday’s success came from the Irish utilizing both their starters and the bench, Notre Dame played 12 players overall throughout the match with three players finishing with 10 or more kills and four with 10 or more digs.
On the offensive side, freshman outside hitter Andrea McHugh led the Irish offense with 17 kills, 14 digs and a career-best three solo blocks. Sophomore middle blocker Hilary Eppink continued her standout season with 15 kills, followed by senior middle blocker Kellie Sciacca with 10 kills and four digs. Brown had five aces in the win for a new career high, which she complemented with three block assists, three kills, seven digs and 45 assists.
The Notre Dame defense sported a new look on Sunday without junior outside hitter Kristen Dealy. In her absence, Irish coach Debbie Brown started junior Frenchy Silva as libero with seniors Megan Dunne and Angela Puente to help on defense. Silva record 18 digs, Dunne 10 and Puente 15 to help the Irish to a dig total of 73.
The first set was aided by a kill from Puente that jumpstarted a 5-1 Irish scoring drive to clinch the match. Both teams’ hitting suffered in the second set, but the Huskies jumped ahead to take it. Notre Dame came back in the third as Connecticut’s offense fell short once again, but the trend stopped in the fourth set.
The final set saw the Huskies out-hit the Irish .333 to .293 but McHugh’s powerful arm proved too much for Connecticut to handle when paired with Sammie Brown’s final ace.
The weekend kicked off with a strong start Saturday morning as the Irish swept the Red Storm. Freshman Andie Olsen had a breakout match as she totaled 10 kills and seven blocks. Sciacca put out 11 kills of her own while Eppink and McHugh played roles in the impressive hitting statistics as they each had 8 kills.
Eppink also chipped in with eight blocks and five digs. McHugh rounded out the day with 12 digs and two aces.
Sammie Brown put up 37 assists while Silva had three and nine digs in the win.
Overall, the Irish were pleased with their weekend’s results, which also helped the players realizing what they need to continue to do in their coming matches.
“It’s really about channeling our focus on the little things each game so when the tough plays come we don’t have to put so much emphasis on winning every single one,” Puente said.
Ultimately, however, Puente said these wins were about the team coming together once more and leaning on each other.
“It was a one of those weekends where we really understood what it means to play as a team, and I think that’s what we can attribute our wins too,” Puente said.
Notre Dame returns to the road next weekend as they travel to Villanova for another conference match on Nov. 5.