Notre Dame prepares for trip to Spartan Classic
Observer Sports Staff | Friday, September 16, 2016
Notre Dame will hit the road for its last non-conference competition at the Spartan Classic in East Lansing, Michigan, on Friday and Saturday. Notre Dame’s opponents over the weekend include Maryland Eastern Shore, DePaul and No. 22 Michigan State.
The Irish (7-2) will open with Maryland Eastern Shore (7-5) on Friday, a team that has lost its last three games. The Hawks have a .231 team hitting average led by sophomore outside hitter Lucia Babic (.300), with 91 kills and 15 blocks on the year. Freshman outside hitter Ivana Blazevic has also made a name for herself quickly on the young team, recording 16 assists and eight digs, both team highs, on the way to all-tournament honors last weekend.
DePaul (5-4) will be recovering from a tight, five-set loss to UIC at home last weekend. Sophomore outside hitter Brittany Maxwell of the Blue Demons shone with 55 kills and an average 3.93 kills per set. Maxwell tied a career-high record of 21 kills and recorded a .447 hitting percentage in the team’s match against Albany, which garnered all-conference recognition on the Big East weekly honor roll on Monday.
Host Michigan State (8-1) made its first appearance in national rankings after a tournament win over then-No. 23 Western Kentucky at the Western Kentucky Invitational on Saturday. Led by senior outside hitter Chloe Reinig and junior setter Rachel Minarick, the Spartans will be coming in hot at their home invitational this weekend. Reinig will be honored before Friday’s game for surpassing 1,000 career kills and Minarick ranks eighth in the Big Ten with 10.15 assists per frame and earned all-tournament honors last weekend.
Notre Dame and Michigan State have shared one common opponent this season in San Diego State. The Irish dominated the Aztecs in straight sets on Saturday, while the Spartans took four sets to garner the win on their opening weekend. Friday’s match will be the first meeting between Notre Dame and Michigan State since 2004; the Spartans lead the series by a 7-4 margin.
The Spartan offense has limited its opponents to a 0.139 hitting percentage all season. Notre Dame will go into the weekend with a .217 average, but only No. 7 Florida and Western Kentucky have reached .200 or better in a match against the Spartans. The Irish attack will be led by junior middle blocker Sam Fry, sophomore outside hitter Rebecca Nunge and freshman outside hitter Jemma Yeadon. Fry has been a key Notre Dame player all season, registering 2.77 kills per set, while Nunge and Yeadon have recorded 2.29 and 2.56, respectively.
The Irish squad will first take the court against Maryland East Shore in East Lansing on Friday at 11:30 a.m.