Irish fall to Hilltoppers in first round of NCAA tournament
Observer Sports Staff | Monday, December 4, 2017
Appearing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012, Notre Dame lost in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Championship to Western Kentucky on Friday night. The Irish (22-10, 11-8 ACC) dropped the match 3-0, playing from behind in each set as a result of Western Kentucky’s (31-4, 13-1 C-USA) hot start.
In the first set, the Hilltoppers jumped out on top early, and the Irish found themselves down 7-0. But Notre Dame refused to surrender, fighting back to within four of the Hilltoppers at 15-11. Western Kentucky responded with another run, scoring five straight to push the lead to 20-11, and the Irish couldn’t mount another come back, going on to drop the first set by a score of 25-16.
Notre Dame got off to a slow start once again in the second set, but rallied to cut the lead down to 9-8 in the middle of the set. The Irish failed to hang on, however, as Western Kentucky scored seven unanswered points, a lead Notre Dame couldn’t overcome. Western Kentucky would go on to take the second set 25-18, and the Irish headed into the third set down 2-0 in the match.
Despite playing from behind, the Irish kept fighting in the third set. Down 17-7 early on, the Irish went on a 10-3 run to cut the lead down to three. Notre Dame went on to come within one point of the Hilltoppers, but the comeback would be shut down as the Hilltoppers went on to win the final three points of the set, winning 25-22 and taking the match 3-0.
In her last Notre Dame appearance, senior Sydney Kuhn recorded six digs, two aces and 11 kills in three sets and finished her career with 1,040 digs, 950 kills, 193 blocks and 97 aces. Senior Natalie Johnson also played her last match for the Irish, and finished her career with 1,166 kills and 118 aces. Senior Sam Fry finished her Notre Dame career with 1,115 kills and 498 blocks. Caroline Holt, who only played for the Irish for two seasons after transferring from Loyola-Chicago, finished her career with 2,064 assists, 398 digs and 99 blocks. The season marked the 19th NCAA Championship appearance in program history.