Notre Dame ends season with loss to Duke
Observer Sports Staff | Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Notre Dame fell in five sets to Duke on Nov. 21 in Durham, North Carolina, during its final game of the year. By winning the regular season finale, the Blue Devils (16-11, 10-8 ACC) finish fifth in the conference standings, with the Irish (16-10,10-8 ACC) one spot below at sixth.
After winning the first set, the Irish then dropped two in a row to the Blue Devils and faced defeat before rallying in the fourth to force a decisive fifth set. However, in the fifth set, Duke prevailed and won the day.
Notre Dame lost despite a balanced attack paced by freshman outside hitter Charley Niego, who led the team with 19 kills, followed by fellow freshman and right side hitter Sydney Bent with 16. Senior outside hitter Rebecca Nunge contributed 14 kills in the effort.
The Irish were also competitive on the net, thanks to senior middle blocker Kristin Baer, who has played a major role over the last few weeks of the season. Baer led the team with eight blocks, and freshman setter Zoe Nunez had a season-high five blocks. Niego also provided four blocks, and Nunez had 55 assists for the Irish.
In the first set, Notre Dame responded to an early Duke lead and gained a 20-16 advantage. Despite a Duke timeout in an attempt to slow the Irish attack, Notre Dame maintained control and won the set, 25-19.
In the second set, Notre Dame’s success carried over early, but Duke responded and took the lead in the middle of the stanza. The Irish would never let the lead get out of hand, narrowing the margin to 22-21, but the Blue Devils went on a run to win by a score of 25-22.
The third set was again tightly contested, and Notre Dame would again not go away despite Duke’s attempts to build a lead. With the set tied at 22 apiece, the Irish failed to complete the set for another time and lost as the Blue Devils scored the final three points of the frame. With their backs against the wall, Notre Dame came out in the fourth set determined to stay in the game. After the Irish gained an early lead, the Blue Devils came back and eventually knotted the set at 19-19, but Notre Dame pulled away to win 25-19 and force one more set. Similar to their first set victory, Notre Dame’s defense stymied Duke’s attack in the fourth,
holding the Blue Devils to only a .167 hitting percentage. The backline was anchored by senior libero Ryann DeJarld and sophomore libero Madison Cruzado, who tallied 21 and 16 digs, respectively.
In the final set, the competitiveness of the previous ones continued. Duke gained an early edge, but Notre Dame would not go quietly, tying the match at 9-9. The lead didn’t grow beyond a 1-point margin until the teams were tied at 15. However, Duke then scored in consecutive possessions to gain the necessary two-point victory margin and win the game, 3-2, ending Notre Dame’s season on a loss.
The Irish, who did not qualify for the NCAA tournament this season, are bidding farewell to four seniors: Nunge, DeJarld, libero Kelly Byrne and middle blockers Meg Morningstar. DeJarld is ending her career on a personal high note, as she was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year on Monday. The libero is the first player in program history to win the title and the first one to record over 2,000 digs. She is third among active NCAA players in career digs, with 2,340, and she led the ACC in 2018 with an average of 5.02 digs per set.