Notre Dame improves at Shamrock Invitational after tough start to season
Andrew Robinson | Monday, September 15, 2014
The start of the 2014-15 season has been a slow and frustrating one for the Irish, but despite the discouraging results, Irish coach Debbie Brown said the team is making major strides individually and as a unit in working out the kinks and is close to turning the corner.Notre Dame (1-7) opened its season with six consecutive losses, including a sweep at the hands of Washington State, IUPUI and Western Michigan when the Irish hosted the Golden Dome Invitational in the Purcell Pavilion two weekends ago. The Irish gained a small measure of redemption when they hosted the Shamrock Invitational this weekend, losing to TCU and Iowa but playing well and picking up their first win of the season, a 3-1 (25-18, 25-19, 20-25, 25-17) victory against Northeastern.
“We made huge strides, playing some different people and getting the lineup working together went pretty smoothly,” Brown said. “Certainly we played much better this weekend than we did two weekends ago.”
Despite losing twice, Notre Dame improved significantly this weekend statistically – after an attack percentage of .090 over its first five games, they more than tripled that figure over the weekend with an attack percentage of .278.
The 172 total kills recorded by the Irish in the three games was more than the 163 they collected in their first five matches. Both the attack percentage and the kills total were greater than the combined efforts of its opponents this weekend.
“The one stat we’re falling short on is the wins,” Brown said. “We’re definitely playing at a higher level all across the board, but obviously we need to figure out a way to win.”
Senior middle blocker Jeni Houser was a big reason the Irish were able to ramp up their offensive attack, generating 47 kills on 88 attempts for a .420 attack percentage in the Shamrock Invitational. Alongside freshman outside hitter Sydney Kuhn, Houser received all-tournament honors for her performance.
“[Jeni] had a great weekend.” Brown said. “She hit over .400 which is phenomenal. She showed a lot of determination. We did a good job of getting her the ball … and she was obviously executing at a high level.”
Kuhn and three other freshmen – libero Natalie Johnson, middle blocker Sam Fry and recently setter Maddie Dilfer – have been getting significant playing time and making a major impact. Before this weekend, Fry was seventh in the nation with 27 blocks, and she is third on the team with 55 kills. Brown had high praises for the performance of the freshman so far.
“[Natalie] is a very strong defensive player, she’s our steadiest passer and she’s a good server,” she said. “Sydney is an incredibly steady passer, she’s a very low-error attacker and was really good this weekend. She’s developing into a very strong member of the rotation.”
She also said Dilfer made significant strides in her setting choices and location as major part of the lineup this past weekend.
Looking forward, Brown said she hopes to improve and find success by focusing on the basics and getting the Irish squad working smoothly together. The Irish travel to West Lafayette, Indiana, this weekend for the Purdue Active Ankle Challenge, in which they will face Morehead State, Saint Louis and Purdue.