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ND Volleyball

Irish learn from Ohio State matchups, look ahead to Michigan State

| Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Following a 1-1 series against then-No. 24 Ohio State over the weekend, the Irish will look to deliver against the second ranked opponent they will face this season in No. 23 Michigan State.

In the first game of the series, the Buckeyes (5-3) defeated the Irish (7-1) by a score of 3-0 in Columbus, Ohio. Back at home in Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame looked far more dominant, beating the Buckeyes 3-1.

Irish junior outside hitter Rebecca Nunge goes up for a kill during Notre Dame's 3-1 win over Valparaiso on Aug. 25 at Compton Family Ice Arena.Chris Collins | The Observer

Irish junior outside hitter Rebecca Nunge goes up for a kill during Notre Dame’s 3-1 win over Valparaiso on Aug. 25 at Compton Family Ice Arena.

On the first night, Notre Dame committed 15 unforced errors, while it recorded only five in Sunday’s win at home. Irish head coach Jim McLaughlin said he thought the difference in the two games came down to mental toughness and consistency.

“I thought we played hard, but there’s more to it,” McLaughlin said. “Everyone’s going to play hard. We were thinking about things we didn’t need to be thinking about. You’ve got to control your thoughts. Your thoughts are tools that serve you well, and we’re learning to do that on game day. The next night, we were just simpler in our thoughts. We stayed on task and played better — there’s no magic there. I think we learned a number of lessons that we could control in the loss against Ohio State.”

As they look ahead to this weekend’s Shamrock Invitational, McLaughlin said he liked the way his team picked spots in the attack this past weekend, and he added that observing the setter is a key to success.

“We’re just getting better at the things we need to do and being more consistent,” McLaughlin said. “[We are focused on] having more success for longer periods of time. That’s in our serve and pass game and hitting with good rhythm and timing. [We need] all six players to be able to really see the setter with the defense and respond to that. We attacked and were more aggressive just by seeing the setter better — we were hitting to better spots. They did a nice job of having great discipline and seeing what the setter was doing.”

Junior outside hitter Rebecca Nunge, who was named co-ACC Player of the Week earlier this month, said the practice for this weekend’s opponents would be much like the team’s preparation for Ohio State.

“We’re going to prepare the same way we always prepare, just like we did on Sunday,” Nunge said. “We’re going to have a good week of practice leading up to the game, and when it’s game time, we are going to be ready to go.”

She said the defeat at Ohio State, Notre Dame’s first loss of the season, made it all the more important to realize the stakes of playing ranked opponents.

“From our loss, we learned that it is all about doing our job when the game gets tough,” Nunge said. “We learned that against big-time opponents, it’s even more important to do our individual jobs on the court.”

As the Irish aim to continue their early-season success, McLaughlin said it is important to learn from mistakes and continue to grow. He said progress is a big emphasis for this team.

“Improvement is the foundation of our program,” McLaughlin said. “We have our goals, and we have a process to get to those goals. The kids are understanding how important the process is of just continuing to improve every day and make progress every day. Then, we can achieve those goals. It’s a good lesson in life — if you want something, you have to learn to go get it. We’re learning to make those changes to get a return on our work.”

Notre Dame will take the court in the Shamrock Invitational at Purcell Pavilion this weekend. The Irish will play No. 23 Michigan State on Friday at 7 p.m., followed by a doubleheader Saturday, starting with Southern Illinois at 12:30 p.m. and ending with Central Michigan at 7 p.m.

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