Irish open season with sweep at Golden Dome Invitational
Elizabeth Greason | Monday, August 28, 2017
The Irish opened their season by hosting — and sweeping — their annual Golden Dome Invitational on their home court, though not within the familiar confines of Purcell Pavilion, but instead the Compton Family Ice Arena.
Notre Dame (3-0) began its season Friday evening against Valparaiso. The Irish put away the first two sets easily, 25-16, 25-19. While the Crusaders (1-2) managed to squeak past the Irish in the third by just two points, Notre Dame battled back in the fourth set to put the match away.
Junior libero Ryann DeJarld tallied 38 digs, the most by any Notre Dame player in a four-set match, and senior setter Caroline Holt made her first appearance since going down to injury in the middle of last season. She finished the match with 49 assists.
Four Irish players finished the match with double-digit kills: sophomore hitter Jemma Yeadon, junior hitter Rebecca Nunge, senior middle blocker Sam Fry and senior outside hitter Sydney Kuhn. Yeadon and Kuhn each picked up double-doubles, with 19 and 16 digs apiece, respectively.
Saturday, the Irish had two matches — the first of which came against Rhode Island. Irish head coach Jim McLaughlin mixed up his starting lineup, most notably giving junior middle blocker Kristin Baer her first career appearance and start. McLaughlin also inserted outside hitters Lauren Woodard, a sophomore, and Maddie Plumlee, a senior, into the lineup.
The Irish took control from the start, controlling the first set and getting up 12-5 early en route to a 25-13 set victory. Baer recorded her first career kill, and then recorded two more, putting her at three-for-three on the attack, the mark at which she finished the day.
“[Baer] did wonderful,” McLaughlin said. “I should have put her back in [at the end of the match] — she hit 1.000, she was three for three. … It was just a decision made for the team, but I should have put her back in, and she’ll get more time [in the future].”
The Irish handled the second set in similarly easy fashion — putting the Rams (0-3) away 25-14. Woodard and Fry each went on runs in the game, ending with seven kills apiece. McLaughlin said he has been impressed with the exponential progress Woodard made throughout the spring and over the course of the summer.
“She had a really good spring, and I went back to spring and I think the first two weeks I was worried, I was concerned,” McLaughlin said. “Her pace of learning was flat, and I talked to her about it and she became more mindful, knowing what her body was doing, knowing what she wanted it to do, had more awareness of what she needed to do to improve and then had a little task list and really was very deliberate about it. And then, once she started making progress, it became a little bit more contagious, and then you do that forever in your life. You just keep getting better. You keep learning, and I think she’s figured that out.”
Outside hitter Hannah Thompson and setter Monroe Olsen, both freshmen, also saw their first career action in Notre Dame uniforms against Rhode Island. Thompson recorded one kill, three blocks and an assist in the match, while Olsen picked up 12 assists and a dig. McLaughlin was happy with the pair’s first performance.
“Any time you can get two or three freshmen on the floor, it’s a great thing,” McLaughlin said. “Some people, it’s the first time they’ve ever put on a Notre Dame uniform and played, so it’s hard, it’s different. Game day is different than practice, and they responded. They’ve got to get better, but I think for the first time out, just good composure, they played hard, they responded and they’ll get better.”
The Irish put the Rams away in the third set, 25-21, and Fry and Woodard each finished with 12 kills. Woodard also recorded eight digs and two service aces, while DeJarld notched 29 digs, earning her the spot as the Invitational MVP after Friday’s record-setting performance.
Saturday night, the Irish closed out the Golden Dome Invitational against New Mexico State. Notre Dame dropped the first set to the Aggies (2-1), but battled back quickly, taking the second set, 25-19.
“We lost the serve and pass, they passed better than we did, then we made seven unforced errors,” McLaughlin said on the first game. “And then game two, we passed better than they did, and we made no errors and they made some errors, so I think we just controlled the ball better, serve and pass and then took better swings.”
In the New Mexico State matchup, McLaughlin returned some of his more familiar faces to the starting lineup, with Yeadon, Kuhn and junior middle blocker Meg Morningstar getting the nod.
Yeadon made her presence known in the second set, lighting up for seven kills in that set alone. Nunge also made a statement at the tail-end of the set, dropping in back-to-back-to-back kills, followed up by a block that dropped in for set point.
The Irish handled the Aggies in two more close sets, 25-23 in the third and 25-21 in a fourth set in which they had to fight back, giving them the sweep of the Golden Dome Invitational.
“There were some ebbs and flows. We weren’t shaken by it when [New Mexico State] got hot,” McLaughlin said on the fourth set. “We held the course, and it came back our way and the girls made some good plays.”
Yeadon finished the match with 20 kills, breaking her previous career-high of 18 kills in a match.
“Everything we do in practice, we just have to work on implementing it in games, so all we can do is get better, so we just have to hope that’s what keeps happening,” Yeadon said of the accomplishment. “ … I definitely feel [confidence] in myself. I think I’ve had some good preparation.”
Yeadon was named to the all-tournament team, alongside Nunge and tournament MVP DeJarld.
The Irish will next take the court Friday at 11 a.m. against VCU at the BGSU/Toledo Invitational in the Stroh Center in Bowling Green, Ohio.