Irish aim to remain unbeaten in ACC play over weekend
R.J. Stempak | Friday, October 7, 2016
Following a successful weekend at home, Notre Dame travels to Syracuse and Boston College this weekend in hopes of extending its five game winning streak.
One of four unbeaten teams left in the ACC, the Irish (13-3, 4-0 ACC) will play their second and third games away from home of this conference season. Notre Dame is off to its best overall start to a season since 2005 and its best ACC start ever. Junior middle blocker Sam Fry said she thinks playing at home was a big advantage for the Irish this past weekend.
“At home, there is more of the attitude of protecting our house,” Fry said. “So when things were getting pretty gritty against Duke, that was our mentality. I think that was a lot of the reason we ended up winning that game, because we had the mentality of ‘We are going to win this match.’ So [when we are on the road], every single time we are focusing on our game and to come out and play Notre Dame volleyball.”
The Irish improved in its blocking last weekend, as their 4.75 blocks per set over the weekend more than doubled their season average of 2.33 blocks per set. Irish head coach Jim McLaughlin stressed the importance of blocking as the foundation of a strong defense.
“We are trying to be more complete as individual volleyball players and as a team,” McLaughlin said. “We put an emphasis on [blocking], and the girls got in some good reps and we got a little bit of a return. There are lots of areas where we have to be better at, and [blocking] was one of them. Blocking and team defense is a package, and it’s an action and reaction thing. Everybody has their assignments and know how they need to do their job in each specific situation, and it all starts with our block up front.”
The Irish begin their pair of weekend matches at Syracuse. The Orange (3-11, 2-2 ACC) are led by freshman outside hitter Mackenzie Weaver and sophomore outside hitter Anastasiya Gorelina, both of whom have compiled over 115 kills on the year.
The Orange, as a team, are ranked No. 26 nationally in blocks per set. Notre Dame will have to avoid their tall blockers in order to come out successful, McLaughlin said. He added that he is pleased with his team’s progress in its preparation for each game.
“The preparation is the same, and we are getting better at it,” McLaughlin said. “I think we are understanding that success has more to do with preparation than anything. So we are starting to value that and be more consistent. And we also understand that if we are not prepared, we risk the chance of someone else being more prepared and sending us home sad. These girls are winning a little bit, and they are tasting it and realizing that the important thing is preparation.”
Notre Dame will then travel from New York to Massachusetts to take on Boston College for its second match of the weekend. Junior outside hitter Sol Calvete leads the Eagles (5-9, 0-4 ACC) with 2.79 points per set on the season.
Boston College, despite its winless ACC record, took No. 9 North Carolina to five sets and is 5-5 at home this season. McLaughlin said he knows his team must not underestimate any opponent it faces.
“[Syracuse and Boston College] are physical, and they are in the ACC and we are on the road,” McLaughlin said. “The coaches are good, but we got to focus and approach it very internally, worrying about what we need to do. We can do what we need to do if our foundation is strong. They will be playing well, and we got a very good challenge ahead of us.”
Notre Dame and Syracuse are set to square off Friday at 7 p.m. at Women’s Building. The Irish will then take on Boston College on Sunday at noon at Power Gym.