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ND Volleyball: Notre Dame finishes as tournament runner-up

By Katie Heit | Monday, September 23, 2013

After defeating North Dakota State, 3-1, on Saturday, the Irish closed out the Kansas Invitational in Lawrence, Kan., with a pair of 3-1 losses to Georgia and Kansas to finish the tournament 1-2. 

Notre Dame (6-5) advanced to Sunday’s tournament championship game after splitting its first two games, but Irish coach Debbie Brown said Kansas (10-3) proved to be too strong of an opponent in the title match.

 “They’re a very experienced team,” Brown said of the Jayhawks. “They’ve got a couple of fifth-year seniors and several other starting seniors. They’ve had good experience playing together, and they’re very well-rounded.”

Brown said the Irish had a difficult time stopping the Kansas offense.

“They have pretty equal distribution in their offense,” Brown said. “You can’t just try to stop one player because they keep all of their hitters involved.” 

Despite the performance from the Kansas offense, the Irish kept up with the Jayhawks. After dropping the first set, 25-22, Notre Dame bounced back and claimed the second frame, 25-19, tying the game. The Irish dropped the third frame, 25-20, before losing the final frame, 25-16. 

On Saturday, the Irish dropped their first set to North Dakota State, 25-21, before bouncing back to win the next three sets, 25-20, 25-20 and 25-12. The Irish had 71 digs against the Bison (0-12), and senior libero Andrea McHugh recorded her 1,000th career digs, making her just the 13th Notre Dame player to achieve the milestone. 

Notre Dame’s four-match winning streak ended when the Irish faced Georgia (10-2) on Saturday. After dropping the first two sets, 25-18 and 25-14, Notre Dame bounced back with a 25-17 victory. The Irish were unable to complete the comeback, however, as they dropped the final set, 25-23. 

Despite Notre Dame’s two losses, Irish senior defensive specialist Sammie Brown earned a spot on the all-tournament team. She had 38 kills, 28 digs, and 19 assists over the course of the weekend and led the Irish offense. 

“Sammie Brown had a very good weekend,” Brown said. “She’s really developing into a great all-around player. She plays good defense, serves and earns points. That was probably the bright spot of the team this weekend, the emergence of [Sammie].”

Brown said she was proud of how the Irish played on offense over the weekend. 

“There’s always things to work on,” Brown said. “There’s always chances to get better. Our hitting percentage has come up a lot, and we want to continue that. We could do a bit better job with blocking and defense. Mainly, we need to get more comfortable with each player on the court.” 

The Irish open ACC play when they face North Carolina on Friday at 7 p.m. in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Contact Katie Heit at kheit@nd.edu