Notre Dame seeks turnaround down stretch run
Elizabeth Greason | Friday, November 18, 2016
After losing five of their last six matches, the Irish look to right the ship this weekend, as they travel to take on Clemson and Georgia Tech in the closing stretch of their season.
Irish head coach Jim McLaughlin pinpointed the turning point in Notre Dame’s season as the moment the Irish (19-9, 10-6 ACC) lost junior setter Caroline Holt to injury in late October. He added that the decision to play sophomore outside hitter Rebecca Nunge over freshman setter Hanna Klein, alongside junior setter Taylor Zwickl, is what he feels will give the team its best chance to close out the season on a high note.
“We lost a good setter,” McLaughlin said. “Our standard of play is a little bit lower. But you get better. And the kids in that position that we’re asking now to set have to get better, and there’s no magic. There’s no dust. I think they understand that. They’re learning that lesson right now. … After watching Rebecca practice, the way she was practicing — all indicators and everything we did — made the staff believe that she’s our best option right now, and Taylor and running the 6-2, both on offense and point scoring. So, we had to give her a shot, and she’s our best option to be successful.”
Since losing Holt, McLaughlin said part of the team’s struggles has stemmed from a difficulty distributing the mental and emotional load without their starting setter, as it leaves sophomore libero Ryann DeJarld, junior middle blocker Sam Fry and senior middle blocker Katie Higgins to lead the team emotionally.
“Everybody’s got to do their role,” McLaughlin said. “Everybody’s got a piece of [the emotional load]. Everybody has value. But, in terms of just the emotional load, it’s [Fry] and [DeJarld] right now. Holt took a big load, and then [Higgins] is capable of doing it, too. So, we’ve got three good women who are capable of holding that load, and we’ve got to turn it on and keep it on until we’re done playing.”
Fry said she has embraced her role as a leader.
“Sometimes, it can be tough on me,” Fry said. “Volleyball’s such a mental game, so I think through everything I’ve experienced, I’ve learned to control emotions. I’m still working on it, but I do welcome that, and I know that’s my job as a leader for the team.”
McLaughlin added that the Irish need to learn from their mistakes, both during practice and during matches, in order to get back on track.
“You have to understand what is causing you to be successful and what’s causing you to have problems, and you address it,” McLaughlin said. “You continue to be good at the things and get better at the things you’re doing, and then you have to fix the things you’re not doing well, or those problems stay with you. And so, it doesn’t change. The girls, I think, know that, and they’re working hard, but we have to make some improvements. So, I asked them to hang on, to grab the error, assess it, analyze it [and] dig into it, but do not run away from it or brush it off. Too many people do that. Let’s address it, let’s talk about it.
“Quit feeling sorry for yourself, and let’s go. And I think they’re doing that.”
Fry said Notre Dame cannot get distracted by its losses and needs to be gritty in order to pick up its standard of play.
“I just think the biggest thing we’re focusing on is bouncing back because we just want to stay mentally tough,” Fry said. “That’s something we talk about is toughness and so, essentially, we just need to pass the test of ‘We’re not gonna fall into a hole, keep moving forward.’ A big thing we talk about every day at practice is move onto the next play. … You can’t get caught up on one bad play or whatever.”
While McLaughlin’s goal throughout most of the season was to lead his team to an ACC title, Notre Dame’s recent rough patch has put this goal further out of reach. However, he said there is no reason his team should not keep improving and win out.
“[We want to] win everything,” McLaughlin said. “That’s the goal at Notre Dame since I got here. We’re gonna train well. We’re gonna improve, and if we do that, then the wins are gonna come. And if we do that, then I think we should win. … Both [Clemson and Georgia Tech] are good. We’re on the road in the ACC, and we’ve been there before, but we have to control the stuff that we have to get better at, and I’m looking for us to be a little bit improved in some areas, and that’s it.”
The Irish will hit the road this weekend to play the Tigers (6-22, 1-15 ACC) at 7 p.m. Friday at Jervey Gym, before heading south to take on the Yellow Jackets (21-7, 12-4 ACC) at 1 p.m. Sunday at O’Keefe Gymnasium.