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ND Volleyball: Inconsistency sinks squad

Conor Kelly | Monday, October 1, 2012

Coming into the weekend with an undefeated Big East record, the Irish continued to play strong against Big East opponents, but it was a 3-2 loss to Marquette on Saturday that provided the first blemish on Notre Dame’s conference record. The Irish defeated Syracuse 3-0 on Sunday to close out the weekend strong.

Against Marquette on Saturday, the Irish (10-6, 3-1 Big East) proved dominant in the first and third sets, winning 25-12 and 25-13 respectively, but struggled with consistency and were unable to put away the Golden Eagles (12-3, 3-0) in the fourth or fifth sets.

“We were obviously disappointed with the result [Saturday],” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “Marquette is a very good team, but we felt like we outplayed them for most of the match.”

Sloppy play plagued the Irish, as the team committed 15 service errors, leading to losses by just a combined 12 points in the second, fourth and fifth sets. The dominance of the Irish in the first and third sets was highlighted by Notre Dame’s .519 hitting percentage in the first set and its limiting Marquette to a .091 percentage in the first and -.069 in the third. Still, inconsistency proved a demon for the Irish.

“It’s really frustrating not being able to finish,” Brown said. “We didn’t play well at the end of a couple games, and it really haunted us.”

Senior captain and middle blocker Hilary Eppink paced the Irish offense with a season-high 14 kills.

Against Syracuse (8-10, 0-3), the Irish came out strong and finished well, winning a rematch of last year’s match that launched the Irish into the Big East tournament. Sophomore right side hitter Jeni Houser and sophomore outside hitter Toni Alugbue led the Irish with 12 kills apiece as Notre Dame dismissed the Orange.

“The team came back and played a strong match. We executed very well,” Brown said. “Last weekend we started very slowly, but we came out strong in both matches this weekend. We kept that momentum going today, even when we had to come from behind in the third set.”

The Irish utilized a balanced attack that led to a .379 hitting percentage and 51 kills from seven different players during the match. The performance was emblematic of what the Irish offense can be, Brown said.

“Our offense is as good as it’s been in a long time,” Brown said. “We’ve got to get the defense up to that speed as well, and that includes serving, blocking and digging.”

The Irish will host a pair of East Coast opponents next weekend as Connecticut and St. John’s visit Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame will take to the court against the Huskies on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Contact Conor Kelly at ckelly17@nd.edu