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ND Volleyball

Notre Dame ready to begin season at Golden Dome Invitational

| Friday, August 26, 2016

Notre Dame is set to kick off its season schedule with the sixth-annual Golden Dome Invitational, hosted at Purcell Pavilion this weekend with a slate of opponents including Seton Hall, Cleveland State and Western Michigan.

The Irish lost to both Seton Hall and Cleveland State at the start of the 2015 season, and look to come back from last year’s 7-25 overall record, beginning with these non-conference games. This is the team’s second year under Irish head coach Jim McLaughlin, who said 2016 brings a new maturity to the squad.

“The second season is very different,” McLaughlin said. “It’s more familiar. You go through it the first time — there’s a little bit of the unknown. I’ve always believed that when you hear it, you forget it. When you see it, you remember it and when you do it, you understand it. There’s a much greater buy-in now. The expectations go up as far as what they expect of themselves.

“The expectations are extremely high, and we can’t shy away from that. If we keep improving each day and start to develop the intangibles — the effort, the discipline, the want to, the ‘how bad do you want it,’ the heart — those things are critical. And so the expectations are that we want to win them all. We want to win the ACC, and we want to go to the NCAA tournament.”

This will be a critical tournament for the four teams as it is the first of the season for all involved. The Cleveland State team could be a serious competitor, as the 2015 Horizon League champions who have posted a 33-14 record in season-opening tournaments. But McLaughlin didn’t identify any one team as a particular worry.

“In 27 years as a head coach, I’ve never worried about who we play, where we play or when we play,” McLaughlin said. “We’ll have our reports. We have to know how to play the game and we’re learning that.”

As far as players to watch, McLaughlin said that senior middle blockers Simmone Collins and Katie Higgins have been playing well in practice, in addition to junior outside hitter Sam Fry. Fry led the Irish in kills, total blocks, points and points per set last year. McLaughlin said he’s reminded the team not to think about the numbers.

Irish junior middle blocker Sam Fry spikes the ball during Notre Dame’s 3-2 loss to Syracuse on Oct. 4 at Purcell Pavilion.Sarah Olson | The Observer

Irish junior middle blocker Sam Fry spikes the ball during Notre Dame’s 3-2 loss to Syracuse on Oct. 4 at Purcell Pavilion.

“The numbers are going up, but I’m not too concerned about that,” McLaughlin said. “Everyone has improved, but I told the girls this — people change. There’s no correlation between initial ability and final ability; it’s what happens in between. We’re going to give all of them a chance with an even rotation, do it in a systematic way and a very objective way. Then we’ll see who changes. Frankly, we’re just at a point where we’re starting not to beat ourselves. We’re maturing.”

The young Irish squad will put their skills to the first test of 2016 with a 7:00 p.m. game on Friday in Purcell Pavilion against Seton Hall. They will then play Cleveland State and Western Michigan on Saturday.

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