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ND Volleyball: Irish win one, lose three

Conor Kelly | Tuesday, October 29, 2013


After snapping a seven-match losing streak on the road against Georgia Tech on Oct. 12, the Irish returned home and picked up their first ACC home victory with a 3-1 defeat of Miami, then the ACC’s top team. 

Behind 44 combined kills from senior defensive specialist Sammie Brown and junior outside hitters Jeni Houser and Toni Alugbue, Notre Dame (8-13, 2-8 ACC) stymied the Hurricanes (13-7, 6-4), the second defeat in what proved to be a series of four consecutive losses for Miami.

“It was definitely a good victory for us,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “We got balanced production from several different players and played very good defense.”

Miami junior outside hitter Savannah Leaf led all players with 17 kills but proved unable to lift the Hurricanes to a win. Brown praised the work Sammie Brown did defending Leaf.

“We did a very good job of stopping one of their best players and one of the best players in the conference,” Brown said. “Sammie [Brown] did a really good job following the scouting report and shadowing her all game.”

The Irish took the first set 25-23 but dropped the second by the same score before controlling the third and fourth on the way to the victory. Senior captain and libero Andrea McHugh led the Irish defensively with 21 digs, while senior setter Maggie Brindock notched 45 assists.

Two days later, Notre Dame hosted No. 20 Florida State, looking to begin a win streak, but fell to the Seminoles (15-6, 8-2) in straight sets. The Irish struggled to get anything going offensively, scoring just eight points in the opening set and 13 in the third. While they pushed Florida State to 25-23 in the second, the Seminoles’ strong front line proved too much, forcing Notre Dame into a .042 hitting percentage. On offense, Florida State hit an impressive .379, led by senior right-side hitter Elise Walch and sophomore outside hitter Nicole Walch.

On Friday, the Irish opened a two-game road trip in Blacksburg, Va., against Virginia Tech, falling 3-1 despite a strong defensive effort. The Irish recorded 18 blocks, including 10 from Houser and six from Brindock but hit just .116 on offense with 25 errors.

The storyline proved familiar again Sunday as Notre Dame struggled on offense and failed to capitalize on a first-set win in falling 3-1 to Virginia.

“We’re really just failing to generate enough kills,” Brown said. “That’s really what it’s coming down to. We got good blocking against Virginia Tech and a decent hitting percentage against Virginia, but we’re just not getting the number of kills we need.”

Brown acknowledged that generating kills is a team effort, not just the task of the hitters.

“Sometimes the passes are off and it puts us out of system,” Brown said. “Sometimes the setting is off by just a little. There’s been no one problem for us all year. We just need to have consistency.”

With the ACC season halfway finished and the majority of games against the top teams in the conference already played, the Irish feel they have a shot to put up a strong second half.

“It’s hard when you’ve lost so many in a row, but we absolutely feel that we’re going to make a run,” Brown said. “We think we can go on a great winning streak. Every game we’ve played so far has been a challenge for us, but we’re very optimistic.”

The Irish next play at home against Maryland at 4 p.m. Friday.

Contact Conor Kelly at ckelly17@nd.edu