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Irish look to break losing streak at home against UNC

After a 3-2 loss to Duke at home, the Notre Dame volleyball team is back in action at home on Friday against North Carolina. 

The Irish have had a shaky season under the reigns of new head coach Salima Rockwell. Currently, Notre Dame has a 9-13 record, with a 3-5 mark at home. The Irish were looking good with a four-game win streak against Syracuse, Boston College, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech, only to lose their next four games. 

Although they ultimately lost to Duke, the Irish put up a fight. In the first match, the Irish were able to pull ahead with a 15-10 lead, only for the Blue Devils to catch up. However, the Irish were able to finish the set and give them some momentum to finish the match. Again, in the second match the Irish were able to keep a steady lead, and a final kill from sophomore outside hitter Paris Thompson would give the Irish their second set. 

However, the Irish were unable to do it again. While they were able to stay closely behind Duke, the Irish fell in the third match. The fourth set would see the score go back and forth, but again Duke would take the set. And finally, the Irish steam was out, and Duke was able to win the fifth set, and the match. 

Despite their record, the Irish squad is stacked with talent, they just struggle to execute. Freshman outside hitter Avery Ross leads the team with 192 kills, followed by freshman outside hitter Lucy Trump (174) and graduate student outside hitter Kaylyn Winkler (154). Six members of the team have over 100 kills on the season. 

On the defensive end, junior libero Hattie Monson has 347 digs on the season and is a crucial backbone to the Irish defense. While there is no other Irish who comes close to Monson’s dig game, Trump and freshman libero Cailey Dockery also have an impressive defensive resume. 

There is certainly talent on Rockwell’s squad, but since the start of the season, the Irish have yet to really click. While the Irish have not defeated any ranked teams, they have shown their worth through their stats and season wins. However, if they hope to break their losing streak they must buckle down, especially on defense. 

The Irish’s next match is not any easier. UNC has a 14-9 record with a 6-4 record on the road. Three Tar Heel players have over 200 kills on the season, the leader being Mabrey Shaffmaster with 328 kills, averaging 3.95 per set. For the record, no Irish player breaks 2. Shaffmaster also has an impressive resume; last year she won 2021 ACC Freshman of the Year and made 2021 All-ACC second and freshman teams. Last year as a freshman, Shaffmaster had a total of 389 kills, the most of any ACC freshman, and the sixth most across the conference. And while Monson outdoes any Tar Heel player with digs, UNC has three players with over 200 digs on their team as well. 

The Tar Heels also do not have a ranked win on their schedule, but they were able to win one set against the No. 7 Pittsburgh, a feat that Notre Dame was unable to accomplish. However, the Tar Heels also lost a 2-3 home match against Syracuse. 

UNC is not a ranked opponent, but they are an impressive team. And unlike the Irish, the Tar Heels have many more jacks of all trades. 

Throughout the season, Rockwell has switched up her rotation to try to find the perfect blend. While many players, such as Trump, Ross and Monson, have been stable, others like Thompson have not always seen the court. 

The Irish look to break their losing streak against North Carolina at home on Friday, Nov. 4 at 6:30 p.m. EST. 

Contact Olivia Schatz at oschatz@nd.edu

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