Notre Dame returns home for pair of ACC foes
Daisy Costello | Thursday, November 5, 2015
After two straight weekends of away competition, the Fighting Irish return to South Bend this weekend against Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh.
The Irish (6-18, 1-11 ACC) have struggled throughout conference play to close out tough matches, but Irish head coach Jim McLaughlin said he has a plan to keep the Irish going down the stretch.
“The preparation is the same, it’s very consistent throughout the year. We’re just controlling our errors, we’re controlling how many points we give up to opponents,” McLaughlin said. “We’re trending in the right area, but most of it is that we have to learn not to beat ourselves before we can capitalize on [our] opponents’ trends, making people earn points.”
The Irish fell last weekend to North Carolina State and North Carolina in a series of difficult away matchups. The Wolfpack (14-10, 3-9 ACC) defeated the Irish in five sets, while the Tar Heels (13-8, 10-2 ACC) bested the Irish in four sets.
Virginia Tech (14-7, 5-7 ACC) is coming off a three-set loss to No. 15 Florida State on Nov. 1, and the Irish look to capitalize on their home-court advantage over the Hokies in their return to South Bend.
“It’s less wear and tear, our fans are cheering for us and we get to play where we train, so it’s a lot better for us right now,” McLaughlin said.
Sophomore outside hitter Sam Fry, who is averaging 3.05 kills per set this season, looks to capitalize against a Hokies defense averaging only 2.1 blocks per set through this season. Fellow sophomore outside hitter Sydney Kuhn backs up Fry on the offensive side, and has 184 kills on the season, averaging 2.00 per set.
The Irish defense will have its hands full Friday against the Hokies hitters. Junior outside hitter Lindsey Owens has a 3.38 kill per set average in 2015. Owens is the anchor of the Virginia Tech offensive attack, which averages 13.12 kills per set. Fry and freshman outside hitter Rebecca Nunge lead the Irish in blocking, together collecting 145 of the 359 Irish blocks in 2015.
After hosting the Hokies on Friday, the Irish welcome Pittsburgh (19-5, 9-3 ACC) to Purcell Pavilion on Sunday. The Panthers currently sit in third-place in the ACC standings and are coming off of a conference win against No. 15 Florida State on Friday, sweeping the Seminoles 3-0.
Pittsburgh features one of the ACC’s best offenses, averaging 14.5 kills per set. Both the Irish and the Panthers are very effective serving teams, with just one service error per set on average in 2015.
“We’re always working with an end in mind, and our end in mind is 10 percent errors. We have to continue to serve tough balls and the girls are doing that every day,” McLaughlin said. “We’ve always said what gets measured gets managed, and what gets managed gets done, and we’re measuring those things every day, and the girls are starting to eliminate those errors.”
The Irish welcome Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh this weekend in their second-to-last home stand of the season. They play Virginia Tech on Friday at 7 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion, then return to action Sunday against Pittsburgh at 1 p.m.