Irish face Orange Sunday in important ACC matchup
Observer Sports Staff | Thursday, November 14, 2019
Fresh off a close 3-2 loss in Miami, the Irish return home this Sunday to face Syracuse. Notre Dame (17-7) is currently in a four-way tie for second in the ACC with 10 conference wins on the season, so the next couple of matches could prove crucial for the Irish. While Pitt solidly resides at the top of the conference with only one loss on the season, the Irish still have a solid chance to earn a high seed in the ACC tournament if they continue to perform with their current effort and aggressiveness.
The Orange (10-11) have overcome a discouraging 0-4 start to the season and are one of the hottest squads in the country, winning their past five matches. These two programs met previously on Nov. 1 when Syracuse was able to defeat Notre Dame 3-1. In that match, Polina Shemanova and Ella Saada were the difference makers for the Orange, as they recorded 22 and 21 kills, respectively. Shemanova holds the season high for kills in a match with 36 against Louisville. She also leads the ACC with about 5.16 kills per set and is one of the best players in the conference, so the Irish will have to find a way to contain her in order to pull out the win. Marina Markova could also prove to be dangerous off the serve, as she ranks second highest in ace-per-set ratio in the conference. The Orange do have some exploitable defensive weaknesses and they are ranked with the worst of the ACC in opponent hitting percentage and in digs.
Notre Dame has a number of weapons of their own. Sophomore Zoe Nunez averages 10.57 serves per set, which is the second highest in the conference. Sophomores Charley Niego and Sydney Bent are among the ACC’s most complete players, as they rank eighth and ninth in average points-per-set. As a team, the Irish rank highly in defensive statistics among conference opponents, as they are third in opponent hitting percentage, sixth in blocks, and second in opponent service aces. In the ACC, Notre Dame also ranks first in digs and fifth in kills. While the Irish are one of the top teams in conference, they struggle in opponent digs and assists.
Much is at stake as both teams jockey for better positions in the conference standings. Seven programs are within three games of each other, so these last few competitions will determine the matchups in the ACC tournament. Notre Dame will also want to end the season with momentum that they can then carry into the postseason. After this matchup, the Irish will travel to Louisville, Kentucky, and Atlanta before concluding the regular season at home against Duke. Sunday’s crucial match will take place at 1 p.m. in Purcell Pavilion.