Irish look to eliminate errors in matchup with Cardinals
Elizabeth Greason | Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Coming off a 3-1 loss to Duke on Sunday, Notre Dame will take a midweek road trip to Louisville to take on the Cardinals on Wednesday.
While playing a match in the middle of the week is not typical of Notre Dame’s schedule, Irish head coach Jim McLaughlin said he believes this week’s irregular schedule will not affect his team, despite the fact they will be playing on less rest and preparation than usual.
“You just adjust,” McLaughlin said. “You know, we’ve always said, it’s not where we play, when we play [or] who we play. It’s how we play. You’ve just gotta flip the switch and go.”
Despite splitting last weekend with a win over Wake Forest and a loss to the Blue Devils (18-6, 12-2 ACC), the Irish (19-7, 10-4) struggled with an uncharacteristically low hitting percentage in both matches, hitting .275 against the Demon Deacons (9-16, 5-9) and just .103 against Duke. McLaughlin said the Irish have a lot to work on in order to improve this percentage, in part due to having new setters in the lineup.
“Pass better, set better, hit better,” McLaughlin said. “You know, there’s a little different rhythm change with our setters. That just comes with the territory. Those kids were thrown into action and they did a good job, but we just have to improve and get those hitting percentages up.”
Junior setter Taylor Zwickl saw her first action of the season over the weekend as she returned from injury. Zwickl spent the majority of the season as junior setter Caroline Holt’s backup, but when Holt went down with a fractured leg, Zwickl was already injured, leaving the offense in the hands of freshman setter Hanna Klein and sophomore outside hitter Rebecca Nunge for two matches. McLaughlin said having Zwickl back on the court with Klein will make a difference for the Irish offensively going forward, as it allows Nunge to return to her usual role as a hitter.
“It allows us to have [Zwickl] play a position she’s used to playing, and then it also allows Nunge to play her role that she’s been playing all year instead of being a setter too,” McLaughlin said. “Now, she can focus on being a hitter and a blocker, so that allows Nunge to play at a higher level. And then, Taylor — she didn’t get many reps and we threw her right in there, and I thought she did a good job and she’s just gonna keep getting better with more opportunities.”
Earlier this season, the Irish swept the Cardinals (8-16, 3-11) on Sept. 23 at home, which McLaughlin said could give the Irish some additional confidence going into Wednesday’s matchup. However, he also emphasized that most of the team’s confidence will stem from their preparation for the match.
“I think confidence is more a function of knowing what you need to do and preparation, believing, ‘Hey, we’re getting good at this,’” McLaughlin said. “Winning and losing affects it a little bit, but I think just having a good week in practice is the most important thing.”
One key to the Louisville match will be minimizing errors, something Notre Dame has focused on throughout the season. It struggled against Duke in this category, posting 22 attack errors. McLaughlin said the most effective way to reduce errors is to play smart.
“[We have to] just stay in rhythm better and make better shots,” McLaughlin said. “And then, not to get hurt on a tough swing. You know, we got hurt on some tough swings — that was uncharacteristic, but the thing that I did like is that we were aggressive. But, you’ve got to be intelligent, and they have to understand that.”
With a win over the Cardinals, the Irish would be posting their first 20-win season since 2012 and have already secured their best season in the ACC yet. Notre Dame’s goal at the start of the season was to win the ACC, according to McLaughlin; however, the Irish currently sit in fifth place in the conference. McLaughlin said even though the regular season is beginning to come to a close, his team is going to keep working and improving to finish the season even stronger than it started.
“We gotta just build on the foundation of the program,” McLaughlin said. “We’ve gotta get better and keep investing high in every position. You know, we don’t have much time left, so we’ve just got to keep grinding.”
The Irish will take on the Cardinals at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky, at 7 p.m. Wednesday.