Irish take down Tigers in four set victory
Observer Sports Staff | Thursday, April 1, 2021
No. 22 Notre Dame women’s volleyball (12-3, 11-3 ACC) picked up its 12th win of the season this past Friday in a four-set victory over Clemson (11-9, 5-8 ACC) inside Purcell Pavilion. The senior night win moved head coach Mike Johnson’s team to 7-1 at home during the combined fall and spring portions of the 2020-2021 season.
Prior to the game, the Irish honored the two members of their 2021 senior class: middle blocker Hannah Thompson and setter Monroe Olsen. Thompson is having her best season in an Irish uniform. The Albuquerque, New Mexico native has been Notre Dame’s best defender at the net this season, pacing the Irish with 64 blocks. The Cibola High School product is also fourth on the team with 88 kills over 56 sets played. Olsen has been a vital part of the Irish rotation this season, primarily as a serving specialist. The Valparaiso, Indiana, native has accumulated new career highs this season in service aces (10) and service aces per set (0.33).
In taking down the Tigers, the Irish rebounded from a thrilling, near-come-from-behind five-set loss to North Carolina earlier in the week and have now won three of their last four games. After a competitive first set featuring 13 ties and six lead changes went to Clemson 25-23, the Irish rattled off three straight-set wins by scores of 25-20, 25-13, 25-11.
As the scores highlight, Notre Dame dominated the final two sets. In the third set, the Irish led from beginning to end and hit a .485 as a team. Junior outside hitter Charley Niego had seven kills on only 10 swings. Olsen began the fourth set with three consecutive aces, finishing with four total for the night. The Irish didn’t look back, again leading the entirety of the set. The Irish attack saved its best frame of the contest for last, hitting an uncanny .517 for the final set.
Niego came up big again for the Irish, posting 20 kills and 11 digs for her seventh double-double of the season and sixth in the last eight matches. Niego, a 2019 First-Team All-ACC selection, leads the team this season with 192 kills and a whopping four kills per set. Junior setter Zoe Nunez, also a 2019 First-Team All-ACC selection, put up 47 assists to push her season total to 622. Middle blocker Lindsey Miller and outside hitter Aubrey Hamilton, Notre Dame’s pair of freshman standouts, continued to impress as well. Miller posted 10 kills with an eye-popping .625 hitting percentage, her third time accruing double-digit kills this season, while Hamilton added 13 kills of her own. Through 15 games, Hamilton has posted double-digit kills in all but six of them, including nine of the past 12 games. The freshman is third on the team with 160 total kills this season. Defensively, Thompson led the way with three blocks alongside sophomore outside hitter Caroline Meuth, who also had three blocks to go along with her nine kills. Freshman libero Hattie Monson totaled a game-high 21 digs.
In the end, Notre Dame hit .411 as a team, good enough for their second-highest percentage of the season, while holding Clemson to a meager .184 hitting percentage. After posting an impressive 6-1 record in the fall half of the season, No. 22 Notre Dame is now 6-2 in the spring with two games remaining in the final week of the season. With the win against Clemson, Notre Dame now has an opportunity to win its first-ever ACC Championship.
The Irish can clinch the ACC title and an automatic trip to the NCAA tournament with a pair of wins over No. 23 Georgia Tech and Duke and a Louisville loss to either Miami or North Carolina. If achieved, it would be the eighteenth regular-season conference championship in program history, with the previous 17 coming as members of the Big East. The Irish will meet both the Yellow Jackets for a top-25 matchup Thursday at 6 p.m. and Duke for their regular-season finale Friday at 4 p.m. inside O’Keefe Gymnasium in Atlanta. The Irish have won two of the past three meetings against both Georgia Tech and Duke. The team will be looking to avenge a five-set loss to Georgia Tech from a season ago and finish this season the same way they did the last: with a win over Duke. Thursday’s game will be streamed live on the ACC Network Extra.