Irish to finish four-game road trip against FSU, Miami (Fl.)
Hayden Adams | Friday, November 8, 2019
Notre Dame team hits the road this weekend for the back half of a four-game road stretch. After splitting a pair of games last weekend against Syracuse and Boston College, the team travels to Tallahassee and Coral Gables, Florida to face off against Florida State and Miami (Fl.), respectively.
The Irish (16-6, 9-3 ACC) got off to a hot start in conference play, beginning the ACC season with a program-record six straight wins. A large part of Notre Dame’s success this season has been the play of underclassmen, who have stepped up to replace key contributors from last year’s graduating class. Head coach Mike Johnson praised the performance of his young players.
“Really, if you look at our team, there’s three players who started in their role before [this season], and they’re young ones,” Johnson said. “So I think it’s fallen on everyone to step up and I think they have … I’m proud they’ve done it.”
Unfortunately for the Irish, they have since gone 3-3 in conference after the opening win streak, including dropping a 3-2 heartbreaker at home to then-No. 23 Louisville. However, Johnson says he doesn’t read much in to win streaks and is only concerned with what lies ahead.
“I just think every day, we show up, we work to get better,” Johnson said. “I think the league is getting better too, so we just continue to improve and compete.”
The Irish will first take on Florida State (16-6, 9-3 ACC), who is in the midst of a four-game winning streak. The Seminoles are led by outside hitter Payton Caffrey. The 6-foot senior has racked up 291 kills on the season, with four of her teammates recording 100-plus kills, three of whom have over 140. By comparison, the Irish concentrate their offensive firepower among three players. Sophomore outside hitter Charley Niego leads the team with 294 kills while sophomore right-side hitter Sydney Bent and freshman outside hitter Caroline Meuth have posted 270 and 267 kills, respectively.
Despite the strong offensive production of a few Irish players, the entire team has contributed on defense this season. Notre Dame is sixth in the ACC in blocks per set, third in opponent hitting percentage and the leader in the conference in digs per set. Johnson said the coaching staff has worked hard to ingrain a strong defensive mentality within the program.
“It’s an important part of our program,” Johnson said. “We believe if we teach well — and a lot of defense is mentality and heart — and if we can exemplify that, our defense can good. But we’re also always investing in our offense as well.”
The Irish offense will be tested against Florida State, as the Seminoles lead the ACC in blocks per set and allow the fourth-lowest hitting percentage. After Florida State, the Irish will travel from the top to the bottom of Florida to take on Miami. The Hurricanes (9-11, 5-7 ACC) have struggled this season and mustered only a 4-3 record at home. Their defense has been a struggle this season, recording the fewest digs per set and allowing the 3rd-worst hitting percentage and blocks per set in the conference. Even so, Johnson takes both opponents seriously and doesn’t have his team preparing for the weekend in any unusual fashion.
“I think those guys are good. Of course, it’s tougher on the road, [so] we’ll have to play well on the on the road,” Johnson said. “Preparation is preparation, and we don’t change it a whole lot. Our Tuesdays are like our Tuesdays and our Wednesdays are like our Wednesdays, and we try to be consistent in our approach week-to-week.”
Regardless, Johnson simply wants his team to bring the intensity and work ethic that has led them to their current success.
“Really, we just take it one day at a time, improve every day we can in practice and play well on game day,” Johnson said. “And if we play well, then things will be good.”
The Irish take on the Seminoles at 6:30 p.m. Friday and the Hurricanes at 1 p.m. Sunday.