Irish sweep first ACC matches of season
Elizabeth Greason | Monday, September 26, 2016
Notre Dame kicked off its ACC campaign with a pair of victories, sweeping reigning ACC champion Louisville, 3-0, at home Friday evening before traveling to Miami to sweep the Hurricanes on Sunday morning.
The Irish (11-3-0, 2-0 ACC) came out strong and fast to start the first set, capitalizing on the errors by the Cardinals (5-7, 0-2) and their out-of-system play. Irish head coach Jim McLaughlin said every point matters, although he added maintaining consistency throughout the match will continue to be a key to picking up wins.
“I think you’ve got to come with good energy, but I also think you’ve got to finish really strong,” McLaughlin said. “So, early points are as critical as late points, and to play with consistency is the deal. But we have a little bit better focus, we could have much better discipline and those are the two elements of consistency.”
Freshman outside hitter Jemma Yeadon had the crowd on double-double watch once again Friday, ultimately finishing the match with 12 kills and seven digs as the Irish took home a win in their first ACC match of the season. Yeadon said she did not feel any additional pressure during the match, despite it being Notre Dame’s ACC opener, and added she felt that her impressive performance was just her doing her job.
“It’s just holding my own and just doing what’s expected of me, every day and in practice, and then implementing that in our games,” Yeadon said. “A big thing that we focus on in practice is kind of just every game is the same. It doesn’t matter who were are playing, we play Notre Dame volleyball all the time.”
McLaughlin said he was impressed, but not surprised by the freshman’s performance.
“Hopefully she’s in much higher pressure situations [going forward], so it’s a step in the right direction,” McLaughlin said. “She’s got good composure; she’s a confident girl; she’s smart; she’s got a lot of good qualities. But, she did a good job.”
Notre Dame also led the way with respect to its service game. Junior middle blocker Sam Fry, who sits atop the ACC leaderboard for total service aces and aces per set, picked up another ace to add to her total and was accompanied by three other Irish players, giving Notre Dame a total of five aces on the match.
A major focus for the Irish this season has been reducing errors. McLaughlin said his team’s errors were not as low as he would have liked, but they were made up for by the fact that the Irish were able to capitalize on Louisville’s errors, as the Cardinals failed to convert on opportunities and continuously gave the Irish free points with service errors.
“We were at seven, 11 and 15 [errors in each set against Louisville], so that’s a little high,” McLaughlin said. “And it’s all about us playing clean and hitting good shots, good swings, but we were a little high, but so were they. We had some good opportunities in transition that we didn’t finish. But we’re creating opportunities, so now we’ve got to learn how to finish those, and that’s a function of everybody doing their job at a higher level.”
Junior setter Caroline Holt registered 30 assists in the three-set victory over Louisville. She also recorded three kills, which is uncommon for a setter. McLaughlin said the kills are not something Holt has worked on in practice; rather, her ability to attack comes naturally.
“She’s just a good athlete, and we put the ball a little tight and she had to just take care of it,” McLaughlin said. “But she has that ability. She’s a good setter, and we want her to set the ball and our passers passed it off today.”
McLauhglin added Holt and sophomore libero Ryann DeJarld have been working on their communication skills on the court, and he said he saw a marked improvement in this Friday.
“[They did] way better,” McLaughlin said. “It’s like anything; it’s like passing or hitting. It’s something you have to continually get better at, and, you know, they’re starting to make noise. And now they’ve got to make meaningful noise and start speaking our Notre Dame language, and it’s different from anywhere.”
The Irish toppled the Cardinals in three sets, 25-15, 25-20 and 25-14, before traveling to Miami to take on the Hurricanes (6-8, 0-2 ACC).
Notre Dame’s sweep was headlined by a powerful offensive, as kills were the name of the game for the Irish.
Sophomore outside hitter Rebecca Nunge, junior outside hitter Sydney Kuhn and Fry recorded eight kills apiece in the match, while Yeadon picked up nine kills and senior middle blocker Katie Higgins topped all of them with 10. Holt also tallied 38 assists in the match.
Notre Dame dominated Miami, winning the first set by a three-point margin, and the last two sets by the same score, 25-15. The sweep also saw the Irish record a season-best hitting percentage of .360.
As a whole, McLaughlin said he was pleased with his team’s performance and is looking forward to seeing what more the Irish have to offer this season as they strive for an ACC title.
“Wins are always good,” McLaughlin said. “They’re hard to come by, and any win is a good win. It’s significant, but as I told the girls, this is not the end point. We’ve got to just keep getting better and better.”
The Irish will continue their schedule against ACC foe Duke on Friday at 7 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.