Irish sweep pair of North Carolina teams to open ACC play
Observer Sports Staff | Monday, September 30, 2019
Notre Dame volleyball opened conference play this weekend with home games against North Carolina and North Carolina State. The Irish (9-3, 2-0) swept both the Tar Heels (3-9, 0-2) and the Wolfpack (5-9, 0-2) to kick off their ACC slate.
On Friday night, the Irish took on the Tar Heels in a game that was tightly contested for the first two sets, as the Irish only won by two points in each. The first set was tied at 11 points apiece before the teams traded runs and North Carolina took a 22-19 lead. However, errors on the part of the Tar Heels allowed Notre Dame to steal the lead back and win the opening period 25-23.
In the second stanza, Notre Dame recorded several errors that limited them, and only recorded a .104 hit percentage after hitting .314 in the first set. The Tar Heels took a 24-20 lead, one point from evening the score with Irish at one set apiece, but the Notre Dame defense stepped up, recording six of their 10 blocks on the night in the second set. The Irish rallied to win the set 26-24 and take a commanding 2-0 lead into the third set.
Despite the Irish recording several errors in the third set, the Tar Heels yet again choked at the end of the set. The Irish recorded a .324 hit percentage, their best of the night, and scored six straight points once again to win the final set 25-20 and take the match in a sweep.
Sophomore right-side hitter Sydney Bent and sophomore outside hitter Charley Niego led the Irish with 13 kills each, while sophomore setter Zoe Nunez recorded a team-high 34 assists. Junior libero Madison Cruzado recorded 18 digs and graduate student middle blocker Kristen Baer posted eight blocks to lead the Irish defense.
Against NC State, the first set was a defensive battle. The Wolfpack recorded a .075 hit percentage while the Irish hit for .091 hit percentage. The teams traded the lead before a 5-1 Irish run put them up 23-19, with Bent providing two kills to close the set out 25-23 for the Irish to take a 1-0 lead.
After the teams achieved a 6-6 tie in the second period, the Irish would go on a 6-1 run to go up 12-7. They never relinquished the lead for the remainder of the stanza, taking a 2-0 lead with a 25-20 score. The offense and defense began to assert themselves in the period as well, improving their hit percentage to .152 and holding the Wolfpack to .059 hitting.
In the third stanza, the Wolfpack fought desperately to stay in the game, as they broke away from a back-and-forth set to take a 19-16 lead and force a Notre Dame timeout. However, the Irish were able to regroup and went on a 6-0 run to take a 22-19 lead. The Wolfpack were worn down by that point and recorded three straight attack errors to give the Irish a 25-20 win yet again and their second consecutive win with a sweep.
Bent, Nunez, and Cruzado once again led the team with 13 kills, 29 assists and 12 digs, respectively. Sophomore middle blocker Lauren Wenzel led the Irish with 6 blocks as well.
The Irish will return to action Friday against Clemson in the third of four straight home games. The match is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.