Irish aim to continue streak of ACC success
R.J. Stempak | Friday, September 30, 2016
Notre Dame is lined up for home contests against Duke and Wake Forest this weekend coming off a successful weekend of consecutive sweeps over Louisville and Miami.
Senior middle blocker Katie Higgins was pleased with the results of the weekend, noting it was a boost to the team’s confidence.
“It was great for us to get into the ACC conference after having a really good preseason and see how well we are playing together, how much the work is paying off and how much of a chance we have to win the ACC this year,” Higgins said. “That was definitely a really good confidence booster and it just let us know where we are at in the ACC. We want to keep the streak going.”
The weekend’s 2-0 was the best ACC start for the Irish (11-3, 2-0 ACC) in the program’s history. Irish head coach Jim McLaughlin echoed Higgins’ positive sentiment.
“It was our most complete weekend,” McLaughlin said. “We played well for longer periods of time. Against great teams, the ebbs and flows don’t help you. A team could get hot, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to cause us to ebb. So we just got to learn to hold course. We did that a couple times this weekend. We served well, we passed well, we hit some good shots, and that is going to put a lot of pressure on people with just those three things. We got to block better, we didn’t block well, but we played good defense and hit well in transition.”
Through the preseason and the first two games of the ACC season, Notre Dame has blown past their previous few seasons. Eight of the team’s 11 victories have come in straight sets. Higgins believes that the team’s development has come along as expected, but there is something in the team’s mindset that is bringing the team to a new level.
“I think it’s our mindset and edge that we have,” Higgins said. “We’ve really come together and developed our skills and we know that we have the right things and now we have the edge to bring it into competition. We are Notre Dame, and we can beat anybody if we set are minds to it. We have an attack mentality that we’ve never had before.”
Duke (8-4, 2-0 ACC) will visit Notre Dame on Friday for the first game of the weekend. The Blue Devils are led by senior middle blocker Jordan Tucker, who has put up a team-best 134 kills and .310 hitting percentage. The battle of undefeated ACC opponents will be a test for both teams. Higgins praised Notre Dame’s ability to put pressure on its opponents, a factor that could decide the outcome of this matchup.
“We are going to put a lot of pressure on [our opponents], Higgins said. “We are going to put pressure on them in our serving and receiving. We are always going to win that battle. And then we are also going to put pressure on them at the net, whether its blocking or making really long rallies and making them earn the points, but they should definitely know that if they are coming in to play us they are going to have to play hard.”
Notre Dame will then take on Wake Forest (5-8, 1-1) on Sunday. Even though the Irish have a better record than their opponent so far this season, they have not defeated the Demon Deacons since 1982.
Wake Forest is headed by a duo of skilled outside hitters, freshman Caroline Rassenfoss and junior Kylie Long, who have contributed 199 and 198 kills, respectively, on the season.
Notre Dame looks to improve to 4-0 in-conference, continuing their ascent up to the top of the ACC this weekend. In its first matchup, the squad will face Duke at 7 p.m. at Purcell. On Sunday, the Irish play Wake Forest at 1 p.m., also at Purcell Pavilion.