Season Recap: Notre Dame falters in stronger new conference
Samantha Zuba | Friday, May 16, 2014
Notre Dame’s biggest victory came relatively early in its challenging inaugural ACC schedule when the Irish upset Miami on Oct. 18 at Purcell Pavilion.
The first season in the ACC was a rough one for the Irish (13-18, 7-13 ACC), but they seem ready to use this past year as the foundation for more matches like the Miami win.Irish coach Debbie Brown expressed this hope.
“Absolutely, we have to build off this season,” Brown said. “We want to turn it around completely. We want to have a much more successful season in terms of wins, and we really believe that we’ll be able to do that.”
The home win against the Hurricanes was the second straight for Notre Dame after an 0-5 start to ACC play.
“It was a good win against Miami at home,” Brown said. “It was an upset. The team played well; we were really focused, so that was probably our strongest match of the ACC schedule.”
After the upset, the wins came sporadically, as the move to a new conference challenged the Irish to prepare for matches against unfamiliar teams.
“I think it was more just a matter of getting to know the teams and the coaches and the systems that they run, so I don’t think it’s really us adjusting as much as knowing what to expect from them,” Brown said.
The Irish also had to adjust to the talent level of the ACC, which is stronger overall than the Big East, Brown said.
“It’s definitely stronger top to bottom,” Brown said. “So I think the top teams are really comparable with the top teams in the Big East, but the bottom teams were much stronger than the bottom teams in the Big East, so I think it was much more challenging night-in and night-out.”
Notre Dame claimed another back-to-back set of victories Nov. 1 and 3 against Maryland and Pittsburgh, respectively, and then defeated Boston College twice and Virginia Tech spread out over the course of the season.
Although the Irish bested their opponents in total solo blocks over the course of the season, their opponents held the edge in kills, assists, service aces and digs.
“I think [one of the biggest takeaways was] probably just that it was a growing and learning year,” Brown said. “It wasn’t one that we achieved well, but I think that we learned a lot from it, and I think that the team returning is very hungry and focused and ready for the challenge for the next season.”
The Irish ended their season with a loss but won two of their final four games, and set themselves up to have a better edge for next season, Brown said. Notre Dame will welcome a large class of six freshmen but now has one season in the ACC under its belt.
“I think it’ll help a lot, certainly seeing each of the teams at least once, and some of them we saw twice,” Brown said. “Additionally, I hired Craig Bere as our assistant, and he’s been at Georgia Tech for the past five years, so he has five years of experience … in the ACC, which will be a huge help to us as well, so definitely the familiarity is an important aspect of the preparation.”
Four seniors will leave the Irish: setter Maggie Brindock, right side/defensive specialist Sammie Brown, libero/outside hitter Andrea McHugh and middle blocker Andie Olsen. Outside hitter Nicole Smith will stay on as a graduate student.