Irish make progress but struggle to find footing
Elizabeth Greason | Friday, May 13, 2016
The 2015 season was undoubtedly a difficult one for the Irish.
Notre Dame (7-25, 2-18 ACC) struggled against almost every opponent in the fall. Irish head coach Jim McLaughlin acknowledged that the season was a disappointment, but also an important learning experience.
“Did we meet our goals? No,” McLaughlin said. “Any time you win seven matches, it’s a difficult year. But you learn from it. As bad as it was, the girls kept fighting and working to get better. We made progress — there’s just a lot more to make. You’ve got to become good before you become great. But it was a very, very tough year.”
The Irish had a strong spring season and made major improvements, which sheds some promising light on what is to come next fall. According to McLaughlin, the spring season provided an opportunity for the team to work as a coherent unit.
“We made a huge jump in the spring,” McLaughlin said. “The team is changing and the girls are changing. More wins are going to come. For some reason, things started to click — we started to get a return. When that happened, the girls started working even harder. In 27 years as a head coach, this was one of the best springs in terms of where we started and where we finished. We were able to push the kids harder, and they wanted that.
“We started to play volleyball the way you should play volleyball here at Notre Dame. The girls were committed at a higher level. We became a better volleyball team. We say this all the time — great teams talk during the play, not in between the plays. The conversation has started to become more meaningful. You’ve got to get the vibe right, which is about saying and doing things that make each other better. That area is as important as anything we do technically and tactically.”
As a whole, McLaughlin considers the team’s ability reduce mistakes one of its most significant improvements.
“When you’re a better team, you make fewer errors,” McLaughlin said. “You can never play the game perfectly, and the girls understand that now. But we are learning at a better rate, so we’ve reduced the number of errors. We are playing a cleaner brand of volleyball. We are a team that can play for longer rallies and not make as many errors. That puts a lot of pressure on the opponent.”
Looking forward, the Irish have set their eyes on the prize. With the improvements his team has made, McLaughlin considers his goals plausible as long as the Irish keep progressing.
“The goals are lofty and the expectations are rising, and we have to validate those expectations every day by improving and getting better,” McLaughlin said. “But, we want to win the ACC. That’s the deal here. And we want to get to the final four. But, to get there, we’ve got to improve today. And if we keep doing that and moving forward, we’re going to get down the road and look back, and we’re going to wake up and we’re going to have won the ACC.”