Irish drop two in Minneapolis
Observer Sports Staff | Monday, September 1, 2014
At a long weekend at the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in Minneapolis, the Irish fell short, losing in a three-set shutouts to both No. 12 Minnesota on Friday (26-24, 27-25, 25-18) and No. 6 Wisconsin on Saturday (25-16, 25-15, 25-16).
Notre Dame (0-2) held set point in the first set of Friday’s matchup against the Golden Gophers (1-1). However, key mistakes on the Irish frontline led to the Gophers taking down Notre Dame, 26-24. The second set played out in much the same fashion, with the Irish losing 27-25 in another tight set. The final set saw a fatigued Irish squad trail 11-8 early and ultimately lose by a score of 25-18.
Senior middle blocker and right side specialist Jeni Houser led Notre Dame, as she totaled 11 kills and nine digs against Minnesota. Graduate student outside hitter Nicole Smith also had a strong night, coming away with eight kills in the first two sets of the game and 10 kills overall.
Saturday evening proved no easier for the Irish, as they took on last season’s NCAA runner-up Wisconsin (2-0). Despite keeping sets close against the Golden Gophers, Notre Dame could not do the same against the Badgers, losing the first and final sets by nine points and the middle set by 10.
Wisconsin took a 9-1 lead early in the first set, easily securing a 25-16 victory in the first match of the game. The second set unfolded in a similar fashion, as the Badgers cruised away with a 25-15 win to take a 2-0 lead in the match. A big run early in the final set helped Wisconsin best the Irish, 25-16, to close out the match.
Smith had team-high six kills on the night, while junior setter Hanna Muzzonigro remained perfect in hits for the entire match. Three freshmen — outside hitter Sydney Kuhn and liberos Jo Kremer and Natalie Johnson — made the first appearances of their careers over the weekend, and Kremer and Johnson had the two lone service aces for Notre Dame against Minnesota.
The Irish begin the home portion of their schedule with the Golden Dome Invitational, where they will welcome Washington State, IUPUI and Western Michigan to Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame’s weekend will kick off with a 7:30 p.m. matchup against Washington State on Friday.