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ND Volleyball

Irish win first game of year but drop two more

| Sunday, September 14, 2014

Notre Dame achieved its first victory of the 2014 season, along with two losses this weekend at the Shamrock Invitational at Purcell Pavilion.

The Irish (1-7) lost 3-1 against TCU on Friday, won 3-1 against Northeastern on Saturday and lost 3-1 against Northern Iowa later in the day.

Friday evening’s match against the Horned Frogs (6-4) proved difficult for Notre Dame, who put up large numbers compared to its opponent. Despite producing 65 kills, 69 digs, 61 assists and four services aces, the Irish could not keep up with TCU’s .351 hitting average and 9-3 blocking ratio.

Senior middle blocker Jeni Houser and sophomore middle blocker Simmone Collines leap up for the block against Northeastern.Emmet Farnan| The Observer

Senior middle blocker Jeni Houser and sophomore middle blocker Simmone Collines leap up for the block against Northeastern.

Notre Dame started off the match strong, taking the first set, 26-24. However, momentum ran short for the Irish in the next three sets, losing to the Horned Frogs, 25-18, 25-21 and 26-24. Senior middle blocker Jeni Houser was a bright spot for the Irish, raking in 20 kills to tie her career high.

Four freshmen — setter Maddie Dilfer, outside hitter Sydney Kuhn, middle blocker Sam Fry and libero Natalie Johnson — also stood out for Notre Dame. Dilfer and Kuhn recorded double-doubles, while Fry accumulated 10 kills, and Johnson had a season-high eight assists.

On Saturday afternoon, the Irish dominated the court against the Huskies (5-5), winning the first two sets, 25-18 and 25-19. The third set kept Notre Dame from a sweep, allowing the Huskies a 25-20 win. However, the Irish bounced back and took the final set, 25-17, to win their first game of the 2014 campaign.

Notre Dame started out strong against Northeastern, hitting .409 in the first match. Houser and graduate student outside hitter Nicole Smith both accumulated three kills to lead the Irish to a 25-18 victory. The next set only improved for Notre Dame, who held a constant lead throughout to give the Irish the 25-19 set. Northeastern scored seven of the last eight points for a 25-20 Huskies win in the third set. However, the Irish concluded the match hitting .351 in the final set to take a 25-17 victory.

Freshman libero Natalie Johnson bumps the ball in Notre Dame’s 3-1 win against Northeastern on Saturday at Purcell Pavilion.Emmet Farnan| The Observer

Freshman libero Natalie Johnson bumps the ball in Notre Dame’s 3-1 win against Northeastern on Saturday at Purcell Pavilion.

Notre Dame closed out the Shamrock Invitational with a loss to Northern Iowa (5-5) on Saturday evening. Despite pounding 57 kills and hitting a season-high .331, Notre Dame recorded 11 errors and could not stop the Panthers, who out-dug the Irish, 61-44. Northern Iowa rolled over the Irish the first two sets, taking each set 25-20 and 25-21.

Several Irish players continued their strong weekends however, with Houser recording 15 kills, while sophomore middle blocker Katie Higgins amassed a career-high seven kills to break her previous career best from earlier in the day against the Huskies. Kuhn added 10 kills, eight digs and two blocks to her stats, and Fry ended the match with nine kills and two blocks. Other than Kuhn and Houser, Smith was the only other Irish player to reach double figures in kills, with 12 during the match.

With Saturday’s win, Northern Iowa took first place in the tournament, while Panther sophomore outside hitter Lindsey Schulz won tournament MVP. Both Houser and Kuhn earned spots on the all-tournament team as the Irish finished third overall.

Notre Dame will conclude its tournament portion of the season next weekend as it competes in the Purdue Active Ankle Challenge in West Lafayette, Ind. The Irish will play against Morehead State and Saint Louis on Friday before taking on No. 8 Purdue on Saturday.

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