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ND Volleyball: Irish drop pair of weekend matches

Observer Staff Report | Monday, September 30, 2013

The Irish struggled in their first-ever weekend of ACC play, as their trip to North Carolina netted two defeats: a 3-0 loss to No. 14 North Carolina on Friday and a 3-1 loss to North Carolina State on Sunday.

In their game Friday at Carmichael Arena, the Irish (6-7, 0-2 ACC) attacked quickly, yet could not withstand the force of the Tar Heels (13-0, 2-0), who served 13 aces and hit home 50 kills in 100 chances.

The Irish hit a .262, their highest mark in a loss this season. Notre Dame hit a .172 in the first set, .261 in the second set, and .344 in the third set. Comparatively, North Carolina was stronger in all three sets, hitting a .312 in the first set, .400 in the second set, and a .394 in the third set.

North Carolina was also very strong in serving hitting 13 aces against the Irish. Graduate student outside hitter Jovana Bjelica and sophomore setter Jordyn Schnabl each had four aces for North Carolina.

Junior middle blocker Jeni Houser led the Irish with nine kills and no errors in 13 opportunities, hitting a percentage of .692. Senior outside hitter Nicole Smith also had a strong game, with eight kills and two errors in 19 opportunities, hitting a percentage of .316. Senior defensive specialist Sammie Brown had seven kills and no errors in 17 chances, hitting a percentage of .412, and senior middle blocker Andie Olsen had four blocks in seven chances, hitting a percentage of .429.

North Carolina led wire-to-wire in the first two sets. In the last set, the Irish took the lead 19-17 near the end of the set, only to give up three consecutive serving aces to sophomore libero Heather Gearhart, giving the Tar Heels a 20-19 lead. North Carolina then closed up the match with three consecutive kills, two by outside hitter Kayla Berringer and one by Bjelica.

In the game Sunday against North Carolina State (10-4, 1-1) at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C., the Irish fell again 3-1, hitting a percentage of .144, a much lower number than against North Carolina. The Irish had a total of 41 kills with 23 errors in 125 opportunities.

Junior outside hitter Toni Alugbue had a strong game, with 12 kills in 32 opportunities, hitting a percentage of .281. Smith had 10 kills in 33 opportunities, hitting a percentage of .091 and Houser had nine kills in 21 opportunities, hitting a percentage of .286. Senior setter Maggie Brindock had the only ace for the Irish the entire match and also had 32 assists in 89 opportunities.

The Irish won the first set and closed it out strong, finishing with a block from Smith and kill from Senior middle blocker Simmone Collins to end the set 22-25. Yet in the second set, North Carolina State took the lead quickly, getting up 4-1 in the first couple plays. The Irish were never able to catch up, and the set finished 25-18.

Near the end of the third set the Irish were trailing the Wolfpack by only by one, 16-15. But the Irish luck turned around quickly, as North Carolina State earned nine consecutive points, with five of them coming from Irish errors.

The Wolfpack set the tone early in the first set, taking the first two points on service aces from freshman libero Maddie Brown. North Carolina started to take a substantial lead near the end of then match, winning 10 out of 14 points down the stretch with some great kills from junior outside hitter Dariyan Hopper and junior middle blocker Alesha Wilson.

The Irish will look to rebound when they return to action Wednesday at home against ACC opponent Duke.