Irish Invitational brings volleyball back to Purcell Pavilion
Tyler Reidy | Thursday, September 7, 2023
On Thursday, Notre Dame volleyball will begin its 12-game home schedule. After splitting both the Under Armour and Catholic Challenges, the 2-2 Irish will host Illinois and Oklahoma in the Irish Invitational. Notre Dame has not faced either opponent in the past 17 years.
High Point transfer Sydney Palazzolo is making her mark in her Irish introduction. The junior outside hitter leads the ACC in kills per set (4.35) while ranking second in service aces per set (0.65). Another transfer, Nicole Drewnick from Georgia Tech, has wasted no time contributing on the court. Drewnick’s 9.82 assists per set position her within the conference’s top five.
Illinois makes three-hour trip for Irish home opener
For Illinois, a .500 season in 2022 has given way to a 4-1 start in 2023. In their defeats of Northern Illinois, Valparaiso, Illinois State and UIC, the Illini outscored the opposition 12-3 in terms of sets. But Illinois fell at home in five sets to Wichita State, a team Notre Dame knocked off in five a week earlier.
Raina Terry leads Illinois in the attack. Fresh off a unanimous Big Ten first-team selection, the senior was named to the Big Ten Preseason Team. Terry’s 94 kills and 5.45 points per set both pace the team and rank second third in the conference, respectively. Over the weekend, she dished out 26 kills in the five-set loss to Wichita State.
Lily Barry and Brooke Mosher have also factored heavily into the Illini’s 345 points. A freshman libero, Barry ranks third in the Big Ten with 4.65 digs per set. Her collegiate debut against Northern Illinois featured 27 digs and three aces. Meanwhile, Mosher owns 9.75 assists per set (third in the conference) as the Illinois setter. Against Illinois State on Sunday, she earned a double-double with 37 assists and 16 digs.
Oklahoma seeks a return to opening weekend form
Oklahoma enters South Bend after a weekend split to open September. Entering on the back of a 15-13 campaign in 2022, the Sooners are 4-1 this season. They have already visited the Hoosier State, winning three matches in a combined 11 sets at the season-opening Ball State Invitational. But last weekend, Oregon State swept Oklahoma at the Asics Invitational before the Sooners topped Boise State 3-1.
As Oklahoma’s top returning hitter, Alexis Shelton has carried her form into the young season. The former freshman standout leads the Big 12 with 4.5 kills per set as a sophomore and posted 26 terminations two Sundays ago against Ball State. Payton Chamberlain, another key returner at the setter position, dished out 49 assists against Boise State. And Taylor Preston, a second sophomore outside hitter, equaled her collegiate best with 23 kills at a .391 hitting percentage Sunday.
In addition to its returning core, Oklahoma’s newcomer class has already made a sizable impact in 2023. Freshmen such as Hannah Pfiffner (29 kills) and Mele Corral-Blagojevich (.961 receive percentage) have started their careers strong. Transfers Lydia Burts (Liberty) and Daleigh Ellison (Texas State) have also carved out roles as impact players. The two pace Oklahoma’s block, owning a combined 33 rejections in five games.
Notre Dame will face Illinois at 7 p.m. Thursday before meeting Oklahoma at 2 p.m. Saturday. ACC Network Extra will carry both matches at Purcell Pavilion.