Irish prepare to open ACC slate against Louisville, NC State
Observer Sports Staff | Wednesday, September 20, 2017
After taking home a 3-0 sweep at the Shamrock Invitational — including a 3-0 win over then-No. 23 Michigan State, Notre Dame’s second win over a ranked squad in as many weeks — the Irish will begin conference play this weekend as they hit the road to take on Louisville and North Carolina State.
Notre Dame (10-1) currently stands at second overall in the ACC standings with conference play yet to begin. The squad is only behind Miami, who is undefeated at 6-0.
The Irish are also touting the current ACC Player of the Week in senior middle blocker Sam Fry. The Cincinnati native hit 0.510 over the course of the Shamrock Invitational, in which the Irish did not drop a single set. She recorded 29 kills and 14 blocks, including 13 kills against Southern Illinois on Saturday.
After a strong weekend, a number of Irish players made climbs in national categories. Senior defensive specialist Natalie Johnson currently ranks sixth in the country in aces per set with 0.59. Senior setter Caroline Holt’s 10.74 assists per set put her at 43rd in the country and sophomore outside hitter Jemma Yeadon’s 4.42 kills per set put her at 24th in the country — she also ranks first in the country in attacks per set. Junior libero Ryann DeJarld also tops the country in digs per set, with 6.65.
First up for Notre Dame in ACC play is Louisville (6-4). Three of the Cardinals’ four losses have come against teams currently ranked in the top 10 nationally in No. 1 Minnesota, No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 10 Kentucky. Cardinals junior libero Molly Sauer is tallying 3.76 digs per set and the pair of sophomore outside hitter Melanie McHenrie and senior middle blocker Tess Clark pose a threat on the attack, as each is averaging over three kills per set.
After taking on the Cardinals, the Irish will head to North Carolina State (5-6). The Wolfpack started the season on a five-match losing streak, which included two losses to then-No. 8 Kansas and No. 3 Florida. Since then, North Carolina State has gone 5-1, with its lone loss to No. 20 Michigan. On the attack, the Wolfpack are led by senior outside hitter Julia Brown, who has 141 kills so far this season. Senior middle blocker Kaitlyn Kearney leads North Carolina State in terms of blocking, with 1.29 per set.
The Irish travel to Kentucky to take on the Cardinals at Cardinal Arena on Friday at 7 p.m., before heading to North Carolina to play the Wolfpack on Sunday at 1 p.m.