Irish seek to end season on high note
Andrew Robinson | Thursday, November 20, 2014
Hoping to build on their takeaways from tough losses at Wake Forest and Duke last weekend, the Irish play two of their final three games this weekend, as they host No. 7 North Carolina on Friday and North Carolina State on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame (6-20, 3-12 ACC) took a 2-1 lead and held match point in the fourth set against Wake Forest last Friday but ultimately let the final two frames slip away. The Irish fell 3-2 (25-27, 25-19, 21-25, 28-26, 11-15) in their sixth five-set match in the past eight contests.
Irish coach Debbie Brown said she points to the 15 service errors compared to just four service aces as especially harmful down the stretch.
“In the Wake Forest game, our serving game definitely hurt us … when you look at how close we were [to winning],” Brown said. “You have to serve aggressively, but you just can’t have such a bad ratio.”
On Sunday against Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Irish were able to pick up the second set against the third-ranked team in the ACC but ultimately lost in four sets (25-15, 23-25, 25-19, 25-20).
“Against Duke, we were actually statistically even with them in almost every category; it was a hard-fought match for us,” Brown said. “We just need to generate a few more kills to put ourselves in a better situation.”
Brown said the takeaways from the Wake Forest and Duke games have been something the team has focused on in preparation for North Carolina and NC State.
“Part of our practice this week has been working on specific shots to get kills,” she said. “We’ve also been focusing on how aggressively we’re serving and what zones we are serving.”
The Tar Heels (22-2, 13-1 ACC), the top-ranked team in the ACC, will be a formidable opponent for the Irish. They are riding a 13-game winning streak; 10 of those victories have been 3-0 sweeps of their opponents, and one was a 3-1 win over No. 8 Florida State last weekend.
Brown, however, said her team takes a similar mindset into this game as any other, focusing on different ways to beat the opponent.
“North Carolina is a strong team … and a really big blocking team, so what we’re doing in our attacking during practice has been a little bit different,” she said.
The Tar Heels do boast the best net defense statistics in the ACC. Junior middle blockers Victoria McPherson and Paige Neuenfeldt lead the conference with 1.52 and 1.51 blocks per set, respectively.
Like the Irish, the Wolfpack (14-12, 3-11) have had some difficulties in conference play this season. After posting a 12-1 record through their first 13 games, they have been just 2-11 in the most recent 13 games of primarily conference play.
“We really are just taking it one match at a time,” Brown said. “This group is still so hungry to learn … and they’re always getting better.”
The Irish will take on the Tar Heels on Friday at 8 p.m. and the Wolfpack on Sunday at 1 p.m. Both games will be held at Purcell Pavilion.