After altering travel plans, Notre Dame will face first ranked opponent in Ohio State
Darcy Dehais | Friday, September 8, 2017
Due to the threat of Hurricane Irma, Notre Dame will alter its plans to attend the Coastal Carolina Classic and instead play a two-match home-and-home series against No. 24 Ohio State this weekend.
The Buckeyes (4-2) are the first ranked team Notre Dame will face this season, and have played a relatively tough schedule so far, falling short in matches against No. 10 BYU and Missouri State earlier this season. The Irish (6-0) are off to their best start since 2005 after winning both the Shamrock Invitational and the BGSU/Toledo Invitational.
After last year’s winning season and the early success the team has found this year, Irish head coach Jim McLaughlin said the Irish will have to keep the wins from going to their heads and stay focused on the tasks ahead.
“I worry about young people taking things for granted,” McLaughlin said. “It’s human nature to say ‘hey, we’re getting better,’ and settle down a little bit. We just have to keep an edge and keep learning. They’re going to take their education as far as they can and learn the lessons they can learn in volleyball. That’s a challenge, but it’s what the great teams do and what the great individuals do.”
On Monday junior outside hitter Rebecca Nunge was named ACC co-player of the week, a high honor after recording her career-best hitting percentage at .615 against Toledo. She is also the Notre Dame leader in hitting percentage at .336 for the season.
McLaughlin said in addition to Nunge, senior middle blocker Sam Fry and senior setter Caroline Holt have been big contributors for the Irish. He explained that the team has relied on different leaders each match, working toward a high performance from all players.
“The contribution is changing now,” McLaughlin said. “On great teams the contribution changes. Rebecca [Nunge] had a great weekend. Caroline Holt was really good in the second weekend. I think everybody’s improving, and we need to get more people doing their job at a higher level. We need to develop that trust in each other and respect for each other that will help the team come together.”
McLaughlin said the keys to success against the Buckeyes will be concentrating on the serve and pass, hitting the ball in and avoiding errors.
“[We’re focusing on] our side of the net,” McLaughlin said. “Ninety percent of this thing is what we do. Both teams have good, physical hitters. We have to stay focused on the things that tell us what to do so we get in good spots and can pressure them. We have to have composure and hit the ball in and be aggressive. If we take care of those things, we have a good chance of being successful this weekend.”
McLaughlin said preparing for the invitationals early in the season, like the matchup against Ohio State, help the team to prepare for conference play.
“Everything we do in the preseason is just about getting things in place, developing this team and expanding abilities,” McLaughlin said. “It doesn’t really matter right now who we play, where we play or when we play. It’s how we play, and our girls are beginning to understand that we control that. Game day is different — the emotions are different. We have to learn in practice and then do it in the game, and they’re getting better at that.”
The Irish take on the Buckeyes on Friday in Columbus at 7 p.m. and at home in Purcell Pavilion at 1 p.m. on Sunday.