Irish set to open season hosting the Golden Dome Invitational
Observer Sports Staff | Friday, August 30, 2019
Irish head coach Mike Johnson and his team are preparing to welcome the La Salle University Explorers, the Wright State Raiders and the Bowling Green Falcons this weekend for the Golden Dome Invitational. The four-team field will include the Raiders taking on the Falcons at 4 p.m. on Friday, joined by the Irish and the Explorers at 7 p.m. Competition will then resume on Saturday with four more games, as each team will have the opportunity to play each other by the end of the Invitational.
The Irish are coming off a 16-12 season, a slight dip from the two seasons prior, when they recorded back-to-back 22-win seasons. While the Irish will certainly miss the leadership of ACC Defender of the Year Ryann DeJarld, who graduated in May, much of Johnson’s roster is returning this season with the chance to apply their experience to a schedule that includes four ranked opponents.
Leading the front line for the Irish is the sophomore trio of Charley Niego, Zoe Nunez and Sydney Bent. Nunez, a setter, along with Niego and Bent, both hitters, have proven themselves up for the task of leading this team. All three were named to the Preseason All-ACC Team, giving the program the second-most nominees. That young corps is joined by a strong cast including senior outside hitter Jemma Yeadon and junior middle blocker Hannah Thompson.
Niego and DeJarld — both products of Mother McAuley High School in Chicago — were each named to the AVCA honorable mention All-American list. While DeJarld has graduated, Niego will be joined by another high school teammate with the addition of freshmen setter Nancy Kane. Kane joins an incoming class that includes middle blocker Sammi Lockwood, libero Kiara Schmidt and outside hitter Caroline Meuth.
Lockwood, a native of Cary, Illinois — a suburb of Chicago — enters Notre Dame as an Under Armour All-American Second Team selection. Schmidt has built herself an impressive record at Murrieta Mesa High School in Murrieta, California, leading her conference with 428 digs this past season. Meuth, a native of San Antonio, has dominated throughout Texas, breaking her school record for most kills in a single match at 35. As the No. 59 player in the class of 2023, she was also honored as PrepVolleyball.com’s National Player of the Week in October and became the first player to earn Player of the Week by LoneStarVolleyball.com twice in the same season.
All three teams traveling to South Bend this weekend recorded at least 15 wins this past season, led by Bowling Green’s 19 victories, including an impressive 9-2 record posted from the road. Following this three-game series, the Irish will take on Valparaiso at home Wednesday before one of their biggest matchups of the season, No. 17 Purdue at home Sept. 6.
The Irish will take on Wright State at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday and will return to action later that day when they conclude the Invitational against Bowling Green at 7 p.m. All matches will be played at Purcell Pavilion.