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ND Volleyball: Irish take on top ACC opponents

Conor Kelly | Thursday, October 17, 2013

 

After winning its first match of the year and ending a seven-match loss against Georgia Tech, Notre Dame will look for its first ACC home win this weekend as the Irish host Miami and Florida State at the Purcell Pavilion. 

While the team prevailed over the Yellow Jackets, the road does not get any easier for the Irish (7-10, 1-5 ACC). The Hurricanes (13-3, 6-0) sit atop the ACC standings while Florida State (12-5, 5-1) is in a four-way tie for second.

“Getting the win last weekend was a big boost,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “Anytime you can snap a losing streak like the one we were on, it’s huge. We were struggling to put a good match together and we did. Now, we just need to keep it going.”

The Irish will first take on Miami on Friday, who is looking to extend its six-game winning streak. The Hurricanes have yet to lose in conference play and have not dropped a match since losing in straight sets to Tulsa in the NIKE Invitational on Sept. 21. Since then, the team has rattled off half a dozen ACC victories in impressive fashion. The Hurricanes are led offensively by junior outside hitter Savanah Leaf, whose 3.85 kills per set puts her third individually in the ACC, but Brown said that it is Miami’s balance that makes it dangerous.

“They’re at the top for a reason, and all five attackers are very good,” Brown said. “In their last game, all five attackers had at least nine kills. It’s really a balanced attack.”

For Notre Dame, the issue all year has been consistency, especially on the offensive side. The Irish have hit just .208 on the year, and Brown said that achieving better consistency is something she would like her team to achieve after a promising performance against Georgia Tech in which the team hit .227.

“These are things we’ve been talking about all year,” Brown said. “We’re just looking for consistency game in and game out, controlling errors and getting better passing and hitting. We’re looking to generate more kills.”

On Sunday against Florida State, the Irish will face another tough test in a Seminole squad that has won six of its last seven matches. The team has lost just once in the ACC this season, falling at Georgia Tech on Sept. 4, and The Seminoles are coming off two straight-set victories over Maryland and Pittsburgh.

Hitting at a .253 clip as a team, Florida State is led offensively by sophomore outside hitter Nicole Walch and her 226 kills, 53 more than her sister, senior outside hitter Elise Walch.

Brown said that her team has a plan for attacking the Seminoles, and it begins with the service game.

“Georgia Tech is their one loss, and we were able to talk to [Georgia Tech's] coaches and find out that they really attacked them with aggressive serving,” Brown said. “We’ve got to try and get Florida State out their system.”

The Irish have averaged 0.9 aces per set and another 0.9 in forced errors off of serves and will look to junior outside hitter Jeni Houser and senior libero Andrea McHugh for production in the serving game.

Notre Dame takes the court against Miami at 7 p.m. Friday at Purcell Pavilion.

Contact Conor Kelly at ckelly17@nd.edu