Notre Dame wins 4th straight game, cruises past Georgia Tech
Observer Sports Staff | Tuesday, October 8, 2019
With a tough conference match against Wake Forest looming, the Notre Dame volleyball team continued to clean up against ACC competition, breezing by Georgia Tech in four sets (25-14, 18-25, 25-15, 26-24). The Irish (11-3, 4-0) have taken advantage of a weak early schedule in conference play, having dropped just two sets in those four matches. The Yellow Jackets dropped to 1-3 in ACC matches and 8-7 overall.
With an 11-4 Wake Forest squad on the horizon, there seemed a distinct possibility the Irish would overlook Georgia Tech, whose three conference losses have all come to teams undefeated in the ACC. However, the Irish came out roaring on Sunday afternoon, powering their way to an easy victory in the first set. Notre Dame would rip off six different spurts of at least three straight points, barely allowing the Yellow Jackets any momentum.
After a Yellow Jacket ace put the Irish in an early 1-0 deficit, sophomore right-side hitter Sydney Bent would even the score with the first of her 15 kills, before two Georgia Tech errors gave Notre Dame the lead for good.
A few minutes later, the Irish, up 4-3, came to life, winning seven of the next eight points to take control of the set. Bent punctuated the run with consecutive kills, both coming off assists from sophomore setter Zoe Nunez, who finished with 39 on the afternoon. The Yellow Jackets would get no closer than 18-13 before the Irish went on their second 7-1 spurt of the set to seal the victory. Freshman outside hitter Charley Niego had three of her team-leading 16 kills during the set-clinching burst.
Set two was tougher sledding for the Irish, who rallied from an early 13-9 deficit to knot the score at 14 points apiece, only to see the Yellow Jackets, propelled by sophomore outside hitter Mikaila Dowd (18 kills) and senior middle blocker Kodie Comby (12 kills), score four straight to re-establish their advantage. After a Bent kill closed the Irish within two points, the Yellow Jackets would end the set by winning seven of the final nine points, evening the match at one set apiece.
The Irish rebounded by dominating set three start to finish. Tied 2-2, four Georgia Tech errors sandwiched around an ace by freshman outside hitter Caroline Meuth, would sink the Yellow Jackets into a 7-2 deficit. Notre Dame would see their lead trimmed to two points at 8-6, before a 5-2 spurt, sparked by Bent’s two kills, put them firmly in control of the set. Georgia Tech never quite went away, and Notre Dame needed one final surge to put the third set to rest. After a Niego service error closed the Yellow Jackets to 18-15, the Irish would spread their offense around in a set-ending 7-0 run. Three Georgia Tech errors, an ace from sophomore middle blocker Lauren Wenzel and a kill from Meuth supplemented two more Bent kills to polish off the victory.
With their backs against the wall, the Yellow Jackets battled in the fourth set, staving off several match points, but the Irish ultimately were able to overwhelm the visitors in clinching the match. The Irish jumped out to an 13-8 advantage, but some sloppy play caught up to them as seven errors helped the Yellow Jackets rally to take a 15-14 lead. Comby had two kills to kickstart the run.
The two squads went back and forth from there, with a Dowd kill eventually leveling the score at 21-21. Notre Dame seemed to put themselves in control, as graduate student middle blocker Kristin Baer, who led the team with six blocks, and Niego delivered booming kills. Comby followed with an error to give the Irish a 24-21 lead.
However, with three match points to work with, the Irish couldn’t convert; Dowd saved one point with a kill before Comby made up for her error with two authoritative kills to draw the Yellow Jackets level once more. As she has so many times in her first collegiate season, Niego came up big, pushing the Irish back out in front with a kill. On their fourth match point opportunity of the set, the Irish converted, as a potential Yellow Jacket kill sailed long, sealing Notre Dame’s four-set victory.
The Irish will embark on a road trip to North Carolina this weekend as they prepare to face off with Wake Forest and Duke.