Notre Dame opens ACC play with Carolina trip
Meagan Bens | Friday, September 21, 2018
Notre Dame is traveling east to play the University of North Carolina in its first ACC match of the season tonight and will travel down to Raleigh to face North Carolina State on Sunday.
The Irish (6-4) open conference play after losing both games in their home-and-home series against Michigan, 0-3 and 1-3. During the first game on in Ann Arbor, Notre Dame held a lead as big as six in the first set and kept the match tight in the second and third sets, but the Wolverines pulled away in all three.
“We played well in stretches at Michigan,” head coach Mike Johnson said. “There were a few lapses in sets and they are a good team and that opens a door for them and they were able to move ahead.”
The second match at home showed hopes of a comeback, but the Irish fell short 3-1. During the first set the Irish pulled in the lead twice, but Michigan rallied to come back on top. The second set was a back-and-forth series, but the third set was Notre Dame’s best.
Pulling ahead 4-0 after kills from junior outside hitter Jemma Yeadon and senior middle blocker Meg Morningstar, Michigan closed one point behind 11-10 before Notre Dame pulled 16-12. The lead grew up to six points before the 25-19 finish. Unfortunately an early lead in the fourth set did not provide the Irish the same momentum to win again. The Wolverines tied at 12-12, and after the score bumped to 16-16, Michigan scored five in a row to take the lead and eventually wrap it up 25-19.
“The second match was better in maintaining that focus, especially maintaining that focus from point to point,” Johnson said. “We got better at that and there are a bunch of young players learning lessons, every player on the team is improving. And I liked our environment and crowd, playing in front of our own fans is always better.”
Despite the losses, senior libero Ryann DeJarld had a team-best 20 digs and in total has 2,003, labeling her as the first Notre Dame player to reach 2,000 digs in her career.
“Certainly says Ryan has been a major part of this team for a long time,” Johnson said. “ She’s improved in ability, leadership and preparation day to day. She’s a player we always count on, and it’s a testament to work over the last four years.”
Shifting gears to the ACC, the Irish will start by taking on the Tar Heels, who are 4-5 and finished 14-14 last year. Hurricane Florence caused two non-conference cancellations, but they last traveled to Elon, walking away with a three-set win.
“Both North Carolina and North Carolina State are very good teams,” Johnson said. “Opening the ACC on the road, we have to maintain our standards and the discipline and play well. Both teams can play, but the focus is always on us and what we can do. North Carolina is physical and there are new players on the floor as well, it will come down to who can play the game better.”
On Sunday, Notre Dame will travel less than an hour away to challenge the Wolfpack (6-4).
“North Carolina State is like North Carolina and they are well coached,” Johnson said. “We battled with them twice last year and the match was down to the wire. I’m looking forward to playing them.”
Notre Dame will take on North Carolina for the 13th time in series history in the Carmichael Arena tonight at 6:30 pm, and then will travel to Reynolds Coliseum to take on North Carolina State on Sunday at 1 pm.