ND readies for season home finale
Manuel De Jesus | Thursday, November 19, 2015
The Irish will compete in their final home-stand of the season as they host Georgia Tech and Clemson this weekend.
Notre Dame (6-22, ACC 1-15) has lost 11 straight matches dating back to Oct. 8 when the Irish defeated Clemson (6-22, ACC 1-15) on the road, 3-2. On paper, Notre Dame’s record isn’t impressive, and currently standing in last place in the ACC, there isn’t much to look forward to past these last four games other than next season.
However, Irish head coach Jim McLaughlin said he is optimistic the team’s experience this season will carry over as a building block for a more successful season next year. Their struggles — whether it’s limiting their errors, improving their serve, or most evidently, finishing sets — every mistake made can be turned into something the team can build off of for next season, he said.
“All points are critically important in a game,” McLaughlin said. “Early points are as critical as late points. As the game goes, teams are going to get hot, and we just can’t let that affect us. … We haven’t done that as well when the match is on the line, and it’s a behavioral thing. We address it, and we’re very honest about it.
“We’re not as good at the end of games, and we have to strengthen that ability, but they’re getting there. … Everything right now is a little building block, and we want to build off of every bit of success we have.”
Even with the last two home games being played this weekend, McLaughlin said he doesn’t believe these games are going to be any more significant than any other game. Every one of their games are opportunities for the team to improve on the things they’ve consistently struggled with throughout the season, he said.
“I think every opportunity you have to play is a measuring stick, an opportunity, it’s a test, and you want to pass that test,” McLaughlin said. “You want to show the improvement you’ve made. Every match has a great significance, and the most important match is this next one.
“We had a good practice [on Tuesday]. Good energy. Our errors and blocks were down to 11 percent, so we met some standards there. We had a good aggressive day, so it was good. We got to build through this week, but the expectations will be higher this weekend.”
The Irish will host the Yellow Jackets (17-11, ACC 8-8) on Friday, who earlier in the season swept Notre Dame in Atlanta. That loss against Georgia Tech started Notre Dame’s 11-game losing streak, and McLaughlin said he wasn’t fond of the way the team played during that matchup.
“I want to forget about [our last match against them]. It was one of our worst games, and there was nothing to take away from that match other than that we didn’t play well,” McLaughlin said. “ … It doesn’t matter who we play, where we play, when we play: It’s how we play. For some reason we didn’t play well, and everyone is responsible for that, including me.
“ … Everything we do in this practice will happen in the game. So, if you practice well, it should translate to the game, and we’re getting a little better at it every game. We’re competitive for sure. I feel good about the team.”
In their first game against Georgia Tech, the Irish hit just .019 for the entirety of the match, converting just 24 kills and suffering from 22 attack errors. The Yellow Jackets, on the other hand, were successful on 28.9 percent of their attacks with 39 kills. During the first set of the match, Georgia Tech went on a 21-7 run to win 25-12, which set up the tone for the rest of the game.
After Georgia Tech, the Irish will play the Tigers on Sunday, a team that has a similar background to Notre Dame. In addition to mirroring the same record, Clemson also carries a young team. Of its 16 players, 10 of them are sophomores and freshmen.
In Notre Dame’s win over the Tigers last month, the Irish hit .233 attack percentage and limited Clemson to just a .168 attacking percentage. Sophomore outside hitter Maddie Plumlee led the team with 19 kills in the match, followed by sophomore outside hitter Sam Fry who hit 13 kills. Fellow sophomore outside hitter Sydney Kuhn also contributed 10 kills while freshman libero Ryann DeJarld led the game with 22 digs.
McLaughlin said he would like for the Irish to repeat that performance this weekend, but he said it’s one thing to say a team will perform well, but it’s another to go out and do it.
“It’s not what you say it’s what you do. Your actions speak volumes,” McLaughlin said. “Can we do the things we’re supposed to do? Can we be who we are? If we do that, we have a chance to be very successful. But, I don’t think that these last matches are different than any match that we’ve had, so it’s critical that we keep getting better and we put everything we have into each match going into it. If we can learn how to do that, we have a better chance of pulling this thing out. For sure, we’d like to finish on an upside.”
The Irish will host the Yellow Jackets on Friday at 7 p.m and the Tigers on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.