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ND Volleyball

Notre Dame claims two wins at Active Ankle Challenge

| Sunday, September 21, 2014

After two straight wins against Morehead State and Saint Louis University, Notre Dame lost this weekend to No. 11 Purdue at the Purdue Active Ankle Challenge in West Lafayette, Indiana.

The Irish (3-8) emerged victorious in their first match of the tournament, beating Morehead State (0-13), 3-2 (25-20, 25-18, 15-25, 22-25, 15-11), on Friday. Notre Dame dominated the court in the first and second sets with hitting averages of .250 and .333, respectively.

However, the Eagles battled back from an 0-2 hole to force a fifth and final set. The Irish took initial control of this frame, opening with an 8-3 lead on their way to a 15-11 win.

Freshman middle blocker Sam Fry had an impressive performance against the Eagles, recording a season-high 13 kills along with six blocks and one service ace.

Irish freshman middle blocker Sam Fry leaps up for a block in Notre Dame’s 3-1 loss to TCU on Sept. 19 at Purcell Pavilion.Emmet Farnan| The Observer

Irish freshman middle blocker Sam Fry leaps up for a block in Notre Dame’s 3-1 loss to TCU on Sept. 19 at Purcell Pavilion.

Notre Dame continued its success hours later, defeating Saint Louis (10-4), 3-1 (25-21, 21-25, 26-24, 25-21).

The Irish got off to a strong start in their second match of the day, taking a 6-1 lead against the Billikens in the first set. Momentum swung back and forth between Notre and Dame and St. Louis in the next two sets, but the Irish secured the match victory with a 25-21 win in the fourth set.

Graduate student outside hitter Nicole Smith accumulated a team-high 16 kills to accompany six digs, five blocks and a service ace, and senior middle blocker/right side hitter Jeni Houser recorded 11 kills and a .474 hitting average.

“I’m really proud of the team,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “It was a really difficult schedule playing at both noon and five. Even though we won, we weren’t very pleased with how we played against Morehead State [on Friday]. We had too many unforced errors and didn’t play crisp volleyball.”

Though their game was not “crisp” against the Eagles, the Irish quickly corrected their errors and played a clean game against the Billikens.

“It was incredible how much focus we came out with against Saint Louis,” Brown said. “We really turned it up and made clutch plays when we needed to, so that was a huge win for us.”

Despite coming off two victories and holding a strong lead in the first two sets against Purdue (10-2), the Irish couldn’t capitalize as the Boilermakers won the final match of the tournament, 3-0 (25-15, 25-23, 25-16), on Saturday.

The Irish started hot, taking an 11-7 lead in the first set. However, the Boilermakers bounced back on an 18-4 run to win the set. In the second set, Irish sophomore middle blocker Katie Higgins and Smith tallied back-to-back block assists, but a kill from Purdue junior outside hitter Annie Drews finished off the close set, 25-23. The Irish couldn’t regain energy in the third set as Purdue took an early lead and went on to win.

Brown said the team’s biggest challenges came against Purdue.

“We started off each set pretty well, but problems came through when we realized that we couldn’t maintain our leads,” she said. “We just didn’t have the consistency to do it, as we gave up big runs and got stuck in rotations.”

The team earned a second-place finish overall at the tournament, with Fry and Smith earning spots on the all-tournament team.

The Irish return to the court Friday to face Miami (FL) at the James L. Knight Complex in Coral Gables, Florida at 7 p.m.

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About Rebecca Rogalski

Current Notre Dame sophomore majoring in FTT and double minoring in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy and Business-Economics.

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