Irish match last season’s win total with Art Carmichael Invitational title
Observer Sports Staff | Monday, September 12, 2016
Notre Dame swept its three matches at the Art Carmichael Invitational at the University of Rhode Island this past weekend en route to its seventh victory of the year, matching the program’s win total from all of last season.
The Irish (7-2) opened the invitational with a dominating three-set victory over Stony Brook on Friday, 25-17, 25-14, 25-12. Irish junior setter Caroline Holt established the team’s tempo with five points as server — four via attack errors by the Seawolves (2-9) and one from an ace — to put the Irish up 8-2 early in the first game. Notre Dame took control for the rest of the match, which saw just two lead changes due to a well-rounded Irish attack. Five players accounted for at least five kills, led by junior middle blocker Sam Fry with nine, and supported by Holt’s 32 assists.
Playing San Diego State on Saturday, the Irish achieved another three-set sweep, 25-17, 25-17, 25-19. Both teams got off to a strong start, as the score was tied, 16-16, by the middle of the opening frame. Then Irish sophomore outside hitter Rebecca Nunge registered back-to-back kills during a 9-1 streak by her squad to close out the set, 25-17. Notre Dame also took command of the second set by jumping out to a 15-4 lead on its way to another 25-17 set win.
The Aztecs (5-5) kept the score tight throughout the third set until a 6-2 run by the Irish, which pushed their lead from 16-14 to 22-16. Freshman outside hitter Jemma Yeadon came up with two key kills for the Irish off assists by Holt. Irish sophomore libero Ryann DeJarld contributed six digs, two assists and a service ace, while Nunge led the way for the Irish with a team-high nine kills while also contributing five blocks. Notre Dame’s attacking percentage was .280 over the three sets, which was markedly better than San Diego State’s clip of .115 in the match.
The host, Rhode Island, proved to be the toughest competition for Notre Dame, but the Irish finished their sweep of the weekend with a 3-1 victory, 25-17, 22-25, 26-24 and 25-15. Junior libero Natalie Johnson got Notre Dame off to a 10-3 start in the first set with a series of strong serves and a pair of aces, and the Irish never trailed from that point on in the set. The Rams (4-5) battled back with energy after regrouping, and a 12-4 run proved to be the turning point in the second frame for the hosts, who snatched the match-tying 25-22 victory.
When Notre Dame returned to the court for set three, it took an 8-2 advantage in part thanks to two service aces by Fry and one by Yeadon. Rhode Island rallied back to tie it at 23 late the in the set. Rams senior outside hitter Audrey Castro made several key plays and led both teams with 20 total kills for the day, earning her all-tournament honors. But it was Fry who stepped up to finish the set with two kills and a final block, which gave the Irish the close 26-24 win. In the final set of the match, the Irish outplayed Rhode Island with a 17-9 lead and never let go, taking the match and the tournament sweep with a 25-15 decision.
Fry, DeJarld and Nunge garnered all-tournament honors at the end of the night. Fry led the attack with 29 kills and added 15 blocks in the three matches. DeJarld garnered MVP honors for her 40 digs in the three matches, averaging four per set. Nunge recorded 23 kills with 10 blocks to round out the all-tournament trio.
The Irish travel to the Spartan Classic in East Lansing, Michigan, for its final weekend of nonconference play Friday and Saturday before ACC competition begins in two weeks.