Irish begin season at Golden Dome Invitational
Observer Sports Staff | Monday, August 30, 2021
The 25th-ranked Irish volleyball team started off their 2021 season this past weekend in the Golden Dome Invitational. Although the Irish lost their opener on Friday night to 16th-ranked Western Kentucky, the team ended on a high note with wins over Oakland and Loyola Chicago on Saturday morning and evening respectively.
Western Kentucky University
Western Kentucky dominated the Irish in the first match, winning in straight sets. The first was a blow out, 25-15, but the Irish came back stronger in the next two, despite still falling short at the end of both of them (25-22, 25-23). Sophomore Aubrey Hamilton recorded seven kills on the day for the Irish and sophomore Lauren Tarnoff had six kills in the first match. The one place the Irish were able to lead the Hilltoppers was in their blocking and they continued to lead there throughout the match.
The first match set the tone for the rest of them with the Hilltoppers going on a 9-1 run to easily win the opening set. The next two sets were much more back and forth, but the Hilltoppers proved clutch at the end of the set to secure the final two sets and secure a straight set victory.
The next match against Oakland University was very entertaining. Although the Golden Grizzlies were able to keep the first set tight for a while, the Irish finished the set on a 9-0 run to take the first set 25-13. The second set was very similar, as the Irish used an 11-2 run to secure the second set 25-16.
The third and fourth sets went completely differently with the Golden Grizzlies using a 10-2 run in the third set to win the set 25-14. In the fourth set, the Golden Grizzlies found another massive run, leading the Irish on an 8-2 run in the middle of the set to hold on and win the fourth, 25-21 and force a final set.
This lit a fire under the Irish, allowing them to jump out to an early lead in the fifth set. However, Oakland battled back to tie the set at 12 apiece and pulled ahead to 13 before the Irish. The Irish ended up prevailing, though, to win the fifth set 15-13 and win the match.
Senior Charley Niego reached the 1,000-kill mark in the match against the Golden Grizzlies, making her the 24th Irish player to hit that mark in history. She reached this mark on her third kill of 19 in this match alone.
In the third and final match, the Irish took care of business against Loyola Chicago by sweeping the match. They again jumped out to a fairly quick win first, followed by two closer ones (25-17, 25-22, 25-20).
Hamilton led the way for the Irish in the final match as well as on the weekend as a whole, recording 14 kills in the Ramblers match and 36 on the weekend. Niego also recorded 10 kills in this match, giving her 33 in the entire tournament. The Irish ended the game against the Ramblers hitting a weekend best mark of .325, while limiting them to a .098 mark.
The Irish will be back in action next weekend at the Shamrock Invitational, which will also be played in Purcell Pavilion on September 3-5. There, the Irish will face Bowling Green, Cincinnati and UW Milwaukee in the event.