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ND Volleyball

Resilience fuels struggling Irish

| Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The season has presented many challenges and learning curves for the Irish, but as coach Debbie Brown would tell you, one major positive theme underlies it all: resilience.

The Irish (6-18, 3-10 ACC) started the season with six losses, and more recently, they endured a difficult 2-11 stretch, both among the worst stretches in recent team history. Despite the troubles, which came partially as a consequence of early-season injuries and a young team, Brown said she continues to marvel at the team’s continued energy and spirit.

“This team is remarkably resilient,” she said. “When you’ve lost like we have, it’s hard to come in the gym and stay upbeat, but the girls have been working really hard to get wins. Nobody likes the record or where we are, so we just stay focused on getting better.”

In their first 18 games, the Irish suffered 10 losses in which they were swept, 3-0. However, they have been significantly more competitive over their last six games, five of which have gone to five sets, including two, 3-2 comeback wins.

The team’s resiliency was certainly apparent in its most recent match against Louisville on Sunday. Notre Dame lost the first two sets, and the match seemed to be a repeat of the sound, 3-0 loss to the Cardinals on Oct. 12 (25-14, 25-19, 25-13).

However, the Irish climbed back, winning the hard-fought third and fourth sets, 25-23 and 25-22, to force the decisive final frame.

After having lost the fifth sets in each of its three previous games against Virginia, Georgia Tech and Boston College, Brown said the team was determined to focus and not let the match slip away. The Irish came out strong and established a 5-2 lead, eventually winning, 15-12, to claim the victory and snap their four-game losing streak.

“I thought we served well and we received serve well, which allowed us to be in system more,” Brown said. “Defensively, we had a lot of scramble plays where we were working hard to keep the ball up. You can’t win without defense.”

A key contributor in this defensive effort was senior libero Kathleen Severyn, who totaled 18 digs. Severyn has seen significant time as a starter lately, and Brown said her leadership has been crucial.

“On the court, Kathleen is calm and confident and helps keep the composure of the team,” Brown said. “Regardless of how many touches she’s getting or how many digs she has, her demeanor and leadership is really important for us.”

The team has also had to deal with recent injuries to junior setter Hannah Muzzonigro and sophomore middle blocker Katie Higgins, who left the game against Louisville with an ankle injury.

“It’s a real sign of character that, in all these situations with losses and injuries and falling behind 2-0 in matches, we haven’t given up,” Brown said.

She said she thought the win against Louisville could be a turning point for the team.

“After a win, when you know you’ve accomplished something, you feel a little more upbeat,” she said. “We’ve kept a great attitude, but the win just maintains the outlook of continuing to get better.”

Notre Dame will play its next match at Wake Forest at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.

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