ND suffers ninth loss in a row
Manuel De Jesus | Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Notre Dame’s struggles continue as the season nears its end, with the team dropping two straight games over the weekend against Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh at Purcell Pavilion.
On Friday, the Irish (6-20, ACC 1-13) failed to keep the lead during their 3-0 loss against the Hokies (15-11, ACC 6-8), who were losers of three straight before the contest. The Irish were ahead for the majority of the first set with a 23-20 lead, needing just two more scores to take the first set of the match.
However, Virginia Tech junior outside hitter Amanda McKinzie scored on two straight kills, and an attack error committed by the Irish tied the set at 23. Soon afterward, Hokies junior outside hitter Lindsey Owens tacked on a couple of kills to help give her team a 1-0 lead on a 27-25 victory.
In the second set, after being down 3-4, Notre Dame held the lead despite Virginia Tech tying the game three different times. Both teams traded blows until the Hokies finally pulled away after being tied at 18 points. Virginia Tech went on a 7-2 run to win the second set 25-20. Owens converted two straight kills to end the set in the same fashion as the first set.
In the final set, Notre Dame kept the match close, never down by more than four points until the very end. The Irish were down 19-20 late in the match before the Hokies went on a six-to-one run to sweep Notre Dame on the road.
“One thing that we’ve been trying to work on in practice is limiting our errors,” sophomore libero Natalie Johnson said. “We struggled a lot with serving, which is usually one of our strengths. It set the other teams up to succeed. It took us out of our game.”
The Irish committed 22 errors to Virginia Tech’s 18 errors. Eleven of the 22 errors came on serves. In addition to their serving issues, Notre Dame’s offense struggled mightily, hitting just .084. Sophomore outside hitter Sydney Kuhn led the Irish with 13 kills, three digs and a couple of blocks.
Against the Pittsburgh Panthers (20-6, ACC 10-4) on Sunday, Notre Dame did its best to stay competitive in each set but ultimately fell 3-0 to push its losing streak to nine games. In the first set, the Irish struggled to contain the Panthers’ high-octane offense. Of Pittsburgh’s 20 kills in the first set, graduate student outside hitter Kadi Kullerkann tallied nine kills.
After being tied at nine points each, the Panthers scored eight of the next 12 scores to sit comfortably on a 17-12 lead. The Irish cut the lead down to 18-19 with kills contributed by four different players, but the Panthers took the set, scoring six of the next seven points and winning the match 25-19.
Pittsburgh controlled the second set going up by as many as eight points. While things looked bleak for the Irish, both the offense and defense picked up the pace, scoring 13 of the next 20 points to cut the Panthers’ lead down to just two. Eight of the 13 points scored during Notre Dame’s comeback were a result of attacking errors by Pittsburgh. Kuhn also contributed a couple of kills in Notre Dame’s run.
Despite those last-ditch efforts, Pittsburgh scored the final point on a kill to win the second set 25-22.
The final set featured another failed attempt at a comeback for Notre Dame. After being down 20-14, the Irish defense forced four attack errors and received help offensively with kills from Kuhn and freshman outside hitter Rebecca Nunge to trim the opponents’ lead to one. Notre Dame was a point away from forcing extra frames after sophomore outside hitter Sam Fry converted on a kill to bring the score to 23-24, but Kullerkann fended off Notre Dame’s comeback with a kill to complete the sweep.
“I think [falling short of finishing sets] is just our inexperience, as our team is comprised of mostly freshmen and sophomores,” Johnson said. “We’re still getting used to playing at the collegiate level. We need to learn how to maintain consistency in the entirety of matches. Starting strong and finishing strong is what we need to work on in practice and need to carry into our matches.”
Despite the recent string of losses, Johnson believes that the players have kept a positive mindset throughout their struggles with hopes of carrying over their experience this season to next year’s campaign.
“We remind ourselves every day that we’re working on building this program up,” Johnson said. “It’s not a sprint. It’s a long battle to be the top team in the conference, which is our ultimate goal. It changes perspective a little bit for us, thinking about the next game but also thinking about building in the long run. It takes small steps to reach our final goal.”
The Irish look to put a halt to their nine-game losing streak Friday at 7 p.m. as they travel to Tallahassee, Florida, to take on No. 20 Florida State.