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ND Volleyball

No. 5 Irish split weekend series against No. 10 Pitt

| Monday, October 19, 2020

The Irish came out of the weekend with a 1-1 split against No. 10 Pitt after winning Friday’s game 3-2 and losing Sunday 1-3 inside Purcell Pavilion. 

The fifth-ranked Notre Dame volleyball team (4-1, 4-1 ACC) came from behind to win Friday’s match. After falling behind 0-2, Notre Dame rallied against the Panthers (3-3, 3-3 ACC), winning the last three sets by four, five and two, respectively, marking the first time since October 2017 that Notre Dame volleyball came back from a 0-2 deficit.

After opening the first set five-all, the Irish took an early 8-5 lead after sophomore outside hitter Caroline Meuth landed two aces. Meuth’s third ace put Notre Dame up 16-12, but Pitt managed to respond, putting the score at 22-22 before eventually scoring three straight to win the set 25-22.

Pitt kept up the momentum going into the second, winning seven of the first 10 points and forcing an early Irish timeout. Notre Dame managed to get within five at 22-17, but again the Panthers scored three straight to win 25-17.

With their backs against the wall, Notre Dame came back strong in the third set, winning 25-21. A 4-0 run aided by two blocks and a kill from senior middle blocker Hannah Thompson kickstarted the Irish’s momentum and put the team up 14-11. Junior right side hitter Sydney Bent sealed the deal for Notre Dame to take the set 25-21.

Erin Fennessy | The Observer
Irish junior outside hitter Charley Niego spikes the ball during a 3-0 Notre Dame win over Valparaiso on Sept. 14, 2019, at Purcell Pavilion.

Invigorated by the win, the Irish came on strong to open the fourth set. Opening 8-6, the hosts distanced themselves from Pitt, with two kills by Meuth helping to put the team up 14-10. Three more points after a Panthers timeout extended the lead to 17-10, but Pitt responded with a 6-1 run. Meuth again helped secure the 25-20 Irish win with a block and a kill.

With the game tied two-all, Notre Dame clinched a tight winner-take-all match to win the series. Pitt and Notre Dame exchanged the lead all game, with the Irish starting out with a 5-4 lead and Pitt scoring four to move ahead 8-5. Ultimately, errors would get the best of Pittsburgh; Notre Dame completed their rally with a 17-15 set win after three Panthers errors.

Unfortunately for the Irish, the defeat only seemed to cause the Panthers to shift gears, as they beat Notre Dame 3-1 on Sunday. 

Notre Dame again came out strong, with freshman libero Hattie Monson landing an ace to help the Irish open with a 4-1 lead. Pitt battled back, making the score nine-all, but Notre Dame pushed back with three straight points to take the lead 12-9. Despite Pitt getting with one eight times, the Irish held the lead and Lauren Wenzel, a junior middle blocker, seized the 25-23 win with a kill.

Strong offense in the second match swung the momentum Pitt’s way. After opening with a six-all score, Pitt took the lead with a 7-1 run against the Irish to make it 13-7. Although Notre Dame closed the gap to make it within striking range of the win at 22-19, the Panthers ultimately won the match 25-19.

The third and fourth sets didn’t go the way the Irish would have wanted it. The Panthers took the lead in each match with scores of 5-1 and 6-3 respectively, and while Notre Dame put up 23 points in the third match, they never managed to take the lead over Pitt. An Irish service error led the way to a Panthers win. The Irish were able to fight to a 12-all score in the fourth match but were again unable to take the lead. Pitt took the frame 25-17, winning the game 3-1.

The Irish will look to bounce back with their regular season finale on the road against Boston College next weekend, on Friday and Saturday. The games will be streamed at 8 p.m. on ACC Network Extra.

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