Irish suffer straight-set defeat on Senior Day
Observer Sports Staff | Monday, December 1, 2014
In the final game of a season filled with challenges, the Irish celebrated the careers of six graduating players but lost 3-0 (25-20, 25-14, 25-18) to Pittsburgh at Purcell Pavilion on Friday.
The Irish (6-25, 3-15 ACC) fought with the Panthers (25-6, 13-5) in the first set, which featured 11 ties and seven Irish leads. However, Pittsburgh’s offense caught fire, going on an 8-2 run en route to a 25-20 victory in the first set.
Despite remaining close early in each set, the Irish saw their season come to a close after a 14-5 run by the Panthers in the second set, and a 10-3 run in the third set brought the match to its end.
The Panthers were dominant at the net with a .357 attack percentage – compared to .202 for Notre Dame – and 43 kills and 7.5 blocks.In her final match, graduate student outside hitter Nicole Smith had a career-high .529 attack percentage and a team-high 10 kills.
Irish fans and underclassmen said farewell to Smith and the five graduating seniors – libero Erin Klosterman, libero Kathleen Severyn, outside hitter Meg Vonderhaar, outside hitter Toni Alugbue and middle blocker Jeni Houser.
After Smith’s sophomore and junior seasons were hampered with a knee injury, she became a force in her senior season and again this year as a graduate student. She was second on the team this year with 249 kills and 2.62 kills per set.
As a senior, Severyn assumed a veteran leadership role down the stretch, playing in 82 sets and tallying 181 digs.
Klosterman played her freshman season at Saint Mary’s before joining Notre Dame and playing in 141 sets, notching 97 digs in her three years.
Vonderhaar ended her career with 223 kills, including seven against Pittsburgh.
Notre Dame suffered a major loss before the season had even started when Alugbue, who led the team in kills in 2012 and 2013, went down with a season-ending injury.
After two seasons in second place statistically behind Alugbue, Houser stepped into the offensive void and led the team in kills with 289. She ended her time at Notre Dame with several all-conference honors and two All-American honorable mentions in her career, and she finished tied for eighth with 1,299 kills.
Alugbue’s injury, compounded with other sporadic injuries and adjustments, resulted in a tough early season for the Irish, who began the year 0-6. Despite battling back and picking up a few conference victories, they ended with a 2-13 stretch. However, Brown repeatedly praised her players for maintaining a positive attitude and high energy throughout the season.