Irish end losing streak with improbable comeback over Wake Forest
Andrew McGuinness | Tuesday, November 21, 2023
It was all but over before 9 p.m., though Notre Dame volleyball was playing a hard-fought match. The Irish took NCAA Tournament hopeful Wake Forest to five extra points in the first set. Once again, the Irish found themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard, dropping the first two sets to bring the prospect of a 10th straight loss and a bittersweet senior day to the forefront.
This time, though, the Irish had finally had enough. With the third set tied at 20, the Irish rattled off a 5-1 run with kills from four different players to extend the match. The fourth set, though, was where the Irish started to show this match would be different than the nine that had preceded it. The Irish reached a level of control rarely seen since their stellar 8-2 start to the season in non-conference play.
An early 6-0 run in the third set gave Notre Dame a big lead that Wake Forest never seriously threatened to erase. The Demon Deacons never got within four points after the Irish made the score 7-3. For the second straight match and just the third time since their last win on Oct. 13, the Irish sent the match the distance with a dominant 25-15 win.
The fifth set was the definition of a dead heat. The teams kept trading blows throughout the early portion of the set. Neither side gained a lead of more than a point until Notre Dame finally earned an 11-9 edge. Wake Forest immediately responded, but the final big run of the night belonged to the Irish, as they took three straight points to move to the cusp of victory. After one last Demon Deacons point, junior setter Phyona Schrader closed out a 14-kill night with one last powerful drive through the Wake Forest block to secure the first Irish victory in over a month.
Four different Irish players reached double-digit kills on the night. Schrader was joined by sophomore outside hitter Lucy Trump, junior outside hitter Sydney Palazzolo and freshman outside hitter Ava Lange. After hitting at a sub-.160 clip in the first two sets, Notre Dame was at .300 or better in the last three. That included an impressive .474 in the decisive fifth. Notre Dame’s depth came through in a way it hasn’t always this season.
The win won’t change the big picture of Notre Dame’s season. The Irish will conclude their season on Nov. 25 at No. 25 Florida State with no postseason hopes to speak of. But Friday’s victory sent departing graduates Charity McDowell and Nicole Drewnick off on the right note. And it showed their early season strides still remain.