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ND Volleyball

Irish pick up first win in Tennessee

| Monday, August 31, 2015

­The Fighting Irish earned their first victory of 2015 this weekend at the Blue Raider Bash in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The Irish (1-2, 0-0 ACC) had tough Saturday losses to Bowling Green, 3-1 (25-27, 25-15, 25-17, 25-20) and Cleveland State, 3-2 (25-18, 21-25, 21-25, 25-22, 15-13). On Sunday, however the Irish turned it around and beat host Middle Tennessee State 3-1 (25-18, 21-25, 21-25, 20-25) to notch Irish head coach Jim McLaughlin’s first win with the program.

Irish sophomore setter Maddie Dilfer sets the ball during Notre Dame’s 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh at Purcell Pavilion on Nov. 28.Emmet Farnan | The Observer

Irish sophomore setter Maddie Dilfer sets the ball during Notre Dame’s 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh at Purcell Pavilion on Nov. 28.

Junior middle blocker and co-captain Katie Higgins and sophomore outside hitter Sam Fry led the Irish attack on Saturday. Higgins got off to an explosive start to the season, racking up 13 kills against the Falcons and added another 20 against the Vikings. Her stunning performance against the Vikings also included four blocks and two service aces. Fry, who was named preseason All-ACC just last week, notched 30 kills between the two Saturday matches. Higgins, who was named captain just last Thursday, said she felt a special sense of accomplishment following the weekend.

“[Being named captain] on Thursday and then playing like that this weekend gave me ownership of the title and that I could handle the pressure,” Higgins said.

On Sunday, things turned around for the Irish as they earned their first win of the 2015 season against the Blue Raiders. Higgins once again fueled the Irish attack with 10 kills on the day, but it was freshman middle blocker Meg Morningstar who shined in the final match of the weekend. Morningstar notched 10 kills and five blocks in just her third game in an Irish uniform. Higgins said she noticed throughout the weekend, Morningstar, as well as the five other freshmen on the roster, are finding their place as contributing members of the team.

“The season looks really good since [the freshmen] were able to play their first games and get some playing time under their belts,” Higgins said. “It’s apparent they’re all grabbing onto the flow of the game really quickly and contribute for the rest of the season.”

Higgins also emphasized the importance of each player “doing their jobs” throughout the weekend and noted the adjustments made between the two heartbreaking losses on Saturday and the team’s first win on Sunday.

“Each game we’ve made a lot of progress and changes individually. We saw ourselves improve even between Bowling Green and Cleveland State,” Higgins said. “[Saturday] we watched ourselves on film between games and focused on individual changes so that we can do our jobs better and continue to do that in each game for the rest of the season.”

McLaughlin, who is the only coach in NCAA history to win men’s and women’s national titles, earned his first victory at the helm of this young Irish team. To Higgins, this weekend’s tournament was also about getting used to the new coaching staff in game situations

“They’re very focused and thorough in games, tracking how we play and what the other team is doing,” she said. “We’re all trusting of them and know whatever they’re doing works and we will continue to trust in them.”

The Irish look to continue their win streak as they return to action this weekend in the Seton Hall Classic in Seton Hall, New Jersey. They open the weekend against host Seton Hall on Friday at 7 p.m.

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