Irish fall to Virginia for third straight loss
R.J. Stempak | Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Notre Dame came into Sunday’s match against Virginia looking to avoid its first three-game losing streak of the season. The Irish were unable to do so as the Cavaliers (7-21, 4-12 ACC) came away with the victory, overcoming losses in the first and second sets to hand the Irish (19-9, 10-6 ACC) their third loss in a row.
The Irish began the day strong, getting off to an early 12-5 lead and forcing a Virginia timeout. The kills were spread around in the first set, with freshman Jemma Yeadon, and juniors Sam Fry, Rebecca Nunge and Sydney Kuhn all earning multiple kills as the Irish took the first set convincingly, 25-13.
Virginia turned its play around in the second set, taking a 7-4 lead early on. After a Notre Dame timeout, the Cavaliers added to the lead, going up 12-7 until a comeback by the Irish. A service error along with a pair of blocks by senior Katie Higgins brought the Irish within two. Back-to-back service aces by sophomore Ryann DeJarld knotted the set up at twelve.
The teams battled until the score was tied at 17, and then the Irish took control with five straight points, going on to win the set 25-20. In the set, Yeadon registered four of her 14 kills while hitting a .263 percentage on the day.
The Cavaliers were not going to give up easy and took a commanding 7-2 lead at the start of the third set. They kept their five-point advantage up until the game was 12-7. A pair of blocks and a kill by Kuhn cut into the Cavalier lead. Virginia was forced to take a timeout to slow Notre Dame’s momentum as the set became closely contested again with a score of 16-14 in favor of the Cavaliers. When playing from behind, Yeadon said that the team has to work together to keep each other calm and ready for every point.
“We got to focus on being consistent and doing exactly what the scouting reports say and everything we do in practice,” Yeadon said. “We have to be composed and be playing together as a team.”
Neither team could pull away by the time Virginia called a timeout with the score tied 22-22. The Cavaliers earned their first set point at 24-22, but a kill from Fry kept the Irish in it. A service error on the next play gave the set to Virginia, 25-23. Irish head coach Jim McLaughlin noted that the team lost some aggression after earning an early lead.
“We got a little tentative, we just didn’t do things with the consistency we have to do it,” McLaughlin said. “We need to focus on maintaining an edge and never letting up. If you let up and become a little superficial and you get on your heels, it’s hard to recover. I think that’s a little of what happened, and you just got to make plays. You got to play the game better. And I think that’s it.”
Unlike the first three sets, neither team was able to take control in the fourth. The set remained within two points until Virginia took an 8-5 lead. The Cavaliers then rode their gathering momentum to take a 14-10 lead.
The lead slowly grew to six, 19-13, and the Irish could not recover as Virginia took the set 25-15.
The Irish came out strong in the final set, jumping out to a 3-1 lead. However, Virginia came back as it had all day, tying the game at 6-6. The intensity level was high in the gym with the game knotted up at 13-13. The game ended two points later with Virginia taking the set and match, 15-13. The Irish had not lost a match where they won the first two sets since Oct. 15, 2015, against North Carolina State.
With five losses in the past six games, McLaughlin said his team is looking for answers in any way they can.
“We are trying everything,” McLaughlin said. “We will go as far as we have to go to try to solve any problem. That’s what we do. We are looking for some answers, but the kids are working hard and you just got to get better at what you do. There is no secret to it. You got to continue to train and to fight through it. You got to go hard all the time and that’s the most important thing.”
Despite the difficult loss, Yeadon said that the team can takeaway some positives from the game and that if the team continues their hard work their fortunes will turn around.
“We need to never give up and always play outside of ourselves and as a team,” Yeadon said. “If we keep doing that good things will come.”
Notre Dame is back in action on the road against Clemson at Jervey Gym on Friday at 7 p.m.