Notre Dame suffers first two losses of season at Shamrock Invitational
R.J. Stempak | Monday, September 5, 2016
Notre Dame hosted the Irish Invitational this weekend, hoping to continue its strong start to the season with matches against Coastal Carolina, Howard and No. 24 Purdue.
The Irish (4-2) began the weekend against the Chanticleers (5-1), suffering their first loss of the year in straight sets. In the second matchup of the tournament, the Irish demonstrated their resilience by taking three straight sets after dropping the first two against the Bison (4-3). Ultimately, however, Purdue took the championship after winning all three of its matches of the tournament. Notre Dame was unable to keep up with the Boilermakers (5-1). The Irish finished the tournament in third place, 1-2 on the weekend and 4-2 overall on the year.
Notre Dame got off to a slow start against Coastal Carolina with seven service errors in the first set. The Chanticleers took the first two sets by scores of 25-21 and 25-20, respectively. In the third set, Notre Dame jumped out to a 14-6 lead. It continued its strong play until Coastal Carolina put together a stretch in which it won eight of 10 points and eventually tied the game up at 25. The Chanticleers closed out the match and the game a few points later, taking the final set by a score of 28-26. Coastal Carolina senior middle blocker Annayka Legros led her team with 13 kills and also contributed five blocks on the day. On the other side, the Irish were lead by freshman outside hitter Jemma Yeadon, who had team-highs of 13 kills and 12 digs.
On Saturday afternoon, Notre Dame returned to the court to face Howard, who lost their first game in the tournament against Purdue in straight sets. The match was close from the beginning, with Howard winning the first set, 26-24. In the second set, the Bison jumped out to an 19-12 lead before the Irish clawed back to tie the game at 21. Howard was able to close out the set, but the Irish used the momentum from the run in the second to propel themselves throughout the remainder of the match. Irish head coach Jim McLaughlin said he was pleased with the progress of his team and how they stuck to their game when facing a deficit.
“[Our opponent] doesn’t change who we are,” McLaughlin said. “We are who we are, and I hope the conditions don’t change that. We are still developing our identity and trying to increase the value of each player. We approach each game one way, which is the Notre Dame way — which is to play hard and play smart.”
The third set was the closest of the match, with Notre Dame squeaking by Howard to win, 33-31, after a kill by Irish junior middle blocker Samantha Fry, who had a match-high 19 kills. Notre Dame managed to outlast Howard after the grueling third set, taking the fourth, 25-22, and dominating the fifth, 15-7, on its way to victory. Irish senior middle blocker Katie Higgins was a big factor in the win, contributing 16 kills for the Irish. Early in the season, the Irish are continuing to improve in many areas while still needing improvement in others, according to McLaughlin.
“We got a little better at passing and serving, but we got to develop our toolbox hitting and hit with some range so these big blockers don’t get us,” McLaughlin said.
Notre Dame finished up its weekend on Saturday evening against Purdue. The Irish started off strong and, behind a kill and block from Yeadon, took an early 4-2 lead. The Boilermakers quickly fought back and tied the set, 7-7. Boilermaker redshirt sophomore Sherridan Atkinson checked in for Purdue and immediately changed the tone of the contest. The 6’5″ outside hitter tallied two quick kills to force an Irish timeout. Towards the end of the set, a service ace from Fry cut the Boilermaker lead to four. Purdue did not allow the lead to shrink any more, however, as it closed out the set, 25-21.
The second set began evenly, until a service ace by redshirt sophomore defensive specialist Carissa Damler put Purdue up 5-3. In the middle of the set, the Irish worked their way back to close the deficit to one. The Boilermakers bounced back with a run to extend the lead to 15-12, but consecutive points by the Irish closed the lead to one again, forcing a Boilermaker timeout. With a strong block at the net, Irish junior setter Caroline Holt pushed the Irish lead to two late in the set. After an immediate response from Purdue to knot it up at 19, the Irish grabbed the lead by winning a point off of a kill by junior outside hitter Maddie Plumlee in the longest rally of the match. Notre Dame carried the momentum forward into the closing moments and won the set on their second set point, 26-24, handing Purdue its first set loss of the tournament.
The Boilermakers started aggressively in the third set, jumping out to a 7-2 lead and forcing the Irish to call a timeout. The Irish did not back down, however, and climbed back into the game behind kills from Plumlee, Holt and Yeadon. With the lead cut to three, Irish junior outside hitter Sydney Kuhn landed a service ace, which was followed up by another Plumlee kill to narrow the Irish deficit to one, 13-12. Notre Dame was unable to gain control of the ball from that point, with Purdue converting on six straight points and extending its lead, 19-12, before later closing out the set by a score of 25-16.
Purdue continued their hot streak into the fourth set, opening the set on a 10-3 run. The Boilermakers kept control throughout the set and eventually clinched the match with a final set victory, 25-16.
The Irish were balanced in their attack against the Boilermakers, as four players contributed five or more kills. Jemma Yeadon led the team with 13 kills, and sophomore libero Ryann DeJarld led the team in digs with 20. The tournament marked continued growth for the team as they search for an identity, McLaughlin said.
“Number one, we played hard, and that’s the most important thing,” McLaughlin said. “And now, we got to just settle down and focus on the game better and play the next play. We got a little better at that [in this tournament], but we still have some way to go.”
The Irish will be back in action Friday at the Art Carmichael Invitational in Kingston, Rhode Island.