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ND Volleyball: Irish shutout halts seven-match losing streak

Katie Heit | Sunday, October 13, 2013

After suffering their seventh-straight loss Friday when they fell 3-0 to Clemson, the Irish bounced back Saturday to sweep Georgia Tech 3-0 and snatch their first ACC victory.

Against Clemson (9-8, 3-3 ACC), the Irish (7-10, 1-5) got out to a quick start, staying neck-and-neck with the Tigers before falling 27-25 in the first game.

“We had a good start if you look at the box scores,” junior hitter Toni Alugbue said. “We just didn’t start with enough urgency.”

In the next two games, the Irish were able to hang with the Tigers but in the end failed to close. They lost the second game 25-22 and the final 25-21. Senior libero Andrea McHugh said the biggest struggle in each of Notre Dame’s two opening games was blocking the strength of the Clemson hitters.

“We didn’t block a ball until the third game, which creates problems for us,” McHugh said. “But we also didn’t dig too many balls and we must produce more digs overall.”

McHugh said she saw a huge improvement in both the defense and the team focus Saturday when the Irish took on Georgia Tech.

“We finally relaxed and just played volleyball,” McHugh said. “We allowed ourselves to be aggressive and work hard every point.”

In their second game of the weekend, Notre Dame had a slow start in game one. Trailing 7-5 early on, the Irish took the lead with five straight points and didn’t lose it for the remainder of the set, winning 25-20. In their second set, the Irish struggled to hold off the Yellow Jackets (7-11, 1-5), but managed to secure a 26-24 victory after falling behind on three-straight kills by the Georgia Tech offense.

To finish their weekend, the Irish battled from a quick 5-1 deficit in game three against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets controlled the offense for much of the set, pulling ahead 12-7. But the Irish came back with a 9-1 run to take a 16-13 lead, an advantage they never lost despite ties at 17, 18 and 23. The Irish hung on to a 25-23 victory.

Alugbue said improved blocking was key to the Irish win, which was their first ACC victory and broke a seven-game losing streak.

“We decided at our session that morning we needed to get at least three blocks a set to win,” Alugbue said. “That’s what we did and that helped us to victory.”

McHugh said the victory, which ends a six-game skid for the Irish, can serve as a jumping-off point heading into the remainder of their year.

“It feels really good to break the losing streak,” McHugh said. “No one likes losing. We have been working really hard as a team to get a win and now we have to start a winning streak that will carry out the rest of the season.”

The Irish will get back to action by taking on top ACC opponent Miami at home Friday at 7 p.m

Contact Katie Heit at kheit@nd.edu