Notre Dame claims first conference victory
Henry Hilliard | Monday, October 6, 2014
It was a weekend of mixed results for the Irish in two home matches against ACC opponents at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame (4-11, 1-3 ACC) bested Syracuse, 3-1, on Friday for its first conference win of the 2014 campaign but lost to No. 25 Duke, 3-1, on Sunday.
Offensive productivity led the Irish to a victory Friday. Notre Dame hit .309 and recorded 19 blocks and 63 digs. Playing in front of more than 1,500 fans at Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame won three of four games, 25-11, 24-26, 25-21, 25-18.
“We always love playing at home,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “Coming off of three weeks of playing on the road, it is great to be back in your own routine and having the energy of your fans.”
Freshman outside hitter Sydney Kuhn, senior middle blocker Jeni Houser and sophomore middle blocker Katie Higgins led the Irish to victory against the Orange (7-9, 0-4). Each of the three players recorded more than 10 kills. Freshman middle blocker Sam Fry added eight kills and led the team with six blocks. As a team, the Irish bested Syracuse with 19 more kills, 14 more assists and 16 more digs.
Against a Blue Devils team that is undefeated in conference play, Notre Dame was less successful, losing the match in four sets, 25-18, 25-21, 20-25, 25-23. The tight match featured 22 ties and eight lead changes.
“Our goal this weekend was to be more competitive in terms of our sets and serves,” Brown said. “That is how we are going to be more competitive in terms of winning more games, especially in ACC play. As a team, that is definitely where our focus is.”
The Blue Devils (12-3, 4-0) hit .260 on Sunday and racked up 65 kills. Notre Dame hung around on the defensive side of the net, collecting 11 blocks, but could not compete offensively. The Irish recorded 49 kills and hit just .228.
Graduate student outside hitter Nicole Smith was the leader for the Irish with 11 kills. Houser and Higgins turned in eight and nine kills, respectively.
In the final set of the match, Notre Dame hung tight with the defending conference champions. The Irish cut Duke’s advantage to 23-21, forcing the Blue Devils to use a time out, but lost, 25-23.
Notre Dame is back on the road this weekend as it continues ACC play. The team faces Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. Friday and Louisville at 2 p.m. Sunday.