Young squad aims for turnaround season
Observer Sports Staff | Wednesday, August 24, 2016
The Irish will open the 2016 season under second-year head coach Jim McLaughlin looking to improve on their 7-25 record from last season.
Returning this year are middle blocker Sam Fry and outside hitter Sydney Kuhn, juniors, who were first and second respectively on the team in kills last season. Fry was also awarded Second Team All-ACC for her efforts last season, and will be a pivotal leader in Notre Dame’s attempt at a turnaround.
In the area of setting, junior setter Taylor Zwickl and transfer junior Caroline Holt will need to fill the shoes of graduated setter Maddie Dilfer, who contributed over 76 percent of the Irish assists from last season. Holt transferred from Loyola (Chicago), where her year was highlighted by earning a Player of the Week award in her conference after averaging 13.86 assists per set over two matches. Zwickl earned three starts in her first year on the team, and will see more action in the upcoming season.
Libero Ryann DeJarld is returning this year for her sophomore season after playing in all 32 games last season. She led the team at the position with 489 digs overall, good for 4.04 digs per set. Second in the team in digs was Kuhn, who finished No. 2 on the squad in kills as well.
Opposing teams outpaced the Irish in kills last season by nearly three per set. However, serves were a strength for the 2015 Notre Dame team, which earned 0.3 more service aces than their opponents per set; when receiving the serve, the Irish committed 36 fewer errors than their opponents over the season. A glaring problem for Notre Dame last year was ball handling: it committed 65 more errors than their opponents in total for the season.
Looking ahead at the schedule, the Irish have four tournaments — two at home and then two away — before they begin ACC play. Improving on their 2-18 in-conference record is surely a goal for the team next season, and performing well in preseason tournaments will give the Irish momentum throughout the season. The season tips off Friday against Seton Hall at 7 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.