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ND Volleyball

ND receives four All-ACC selections, NCAA bid following win over Duke

| Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The Notre Dame volleyball capped off its season in style as it rolled to a 3-1 victory over Duke on Senior Day. The Irish were propelled to the win by sophomore outside hitter Charley Niego, who recorded 20 kills and 20 digs on the afternoon, the first 20-20 performance by a Notre Dame player since outside hitter Kristen Dealy accomplished the feat in 2010 with 24 kills and 25 digs in five sets against Delaware.

It was a commanding performance by Niego, who posted a season-high .415 hitting percentage, recording only three errors for the contest. The Irish (19-9, 12-6 ACC) also controlled the contest serving the ball, posting nine aces to none for the Blue Devils (11-19, 5-13 ACC). Also of note was sophomore setter Zoe Nunez, who posted her eighth 50-set performance of the season with 50 against the Blue Devils.

Emma Farnan | The Observer
Irish junior libber Madison Cruzado digs the ball during Notre Dame’s 3-1 win over Syracuse on Nov. 17.

The Irish opened the match with authority, jumping out to a 5-0 lead in the first set and forcing a Duke timeout. Notre Dame would not relent, though, as it recorded 19 kills to win the period 25-17 and take a 1-0 lead over Duke.

The second match unfolded in similar fashion, with the Irish once more establishing a five-point lead after going up 10-5 and forcing another Blue Devils timeout. As it did in the first, that timeout failed to slow down the Irish, and they rattled off four more points to cap a 7-0 scoring run. Notre Dame then carried the momentum to yet another 25-17 match win and a 2-0 lead. Over the first two sets the Irish hit .327 and .347, respectively, and the Blue Devils increased their errors from one to four between the opening periods.

Were it not for errors on the part of the Irish, they may have swept the Blue Devils in three sets, but nine mistakes on the part of Notre Dame compared to only five by Duke allowed the visitors to get on the board with a 25-22 set win, bringing the overall mark to 2-1 in favor of the Irish. However, the Irish would turn around from that sloppy third set and finish the job in set number four.

With Duke fighting desperately to stay in the match, the Irish asserted their dominance by going on an 11-0 stretch to blow open the score and take a 15-4 lead. They wouldn’t give the Blue Devils an inkling of hope, as the Irish put their foot on Duke’s neck and didn’t let them up, taking the final set 25-10 and leaving Purcell Pavilion on a high note for the year.

With the win over Duke, Notre Dame finished the regular season in fifth place in the ACC, losing a tiebreaker with Louisville but winning one with North Carolina. In addition to the fifth-place finish, the Irish also finished the regular season fourth in the conference in opponent hitting percentage and assists per set, third in kills per set and first in digs per set.

On Monday, the ACC announced its conference awards, with four Irish players receiving accolades. Niego and Nunez were both named to the All-ACC First Team, while sophomore right-side hitter Sydney Bent and freshman outside hitter Caroline Meuth both made the All-ACC Second Team, with Meuth being named to the conference’s All-Freshman Team as well. That was not the only good news this week for the Irish, however.

Following the match Friday, the Irish found their hard work this season paid off as they were granted a berth in the NCAA Tournament after missing the postseason last year. The Irish were placed in the region of No. 4-seeded Wisconsin, and they will take on the Bruins of UCLA in the first round of the tournament Friday at 5:30 p.m. on the road to the championship game in Pittsburgh.

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