Categories
Sports

Rockwell, Monson lead Irish into ACC play

Notre Dame volleyball’s head coach Salima Rockwell came onto campus with a rocky start. The Irish opened up the season 0-2 against Texas Tech and Mississippi State before winning in the fifth set against Milwaukee. The Irish then traveled to the Long Beach State Tournament where they also went 0-2 on the weekend. This would be the start of a nine-game road streak. 

Since the Long Beach State Tournament, however, the Irish have shifted their luck. The Irish went 1-4 for the first five games of the season, and 4-1 in the latter five. 

“I think at first it was a lot of experiments, we were just trying to figure out a good lineup,” Rockwell said. “What was going to work for us? What combination of players can execute best on the court? But, you know, the big thing we talked about in our gym is minimizing errors, and then just trying to maximize what we do well. And I think that’s probably our biggest area of growth is getting better at little things, eliminating some of those errors that maybe we were doing early on. We’re not seeing quite as much right now.”

The Irish have gotten cleaner in their game. In the first two games of the season, the Irish had 67 kills to their opponent’s 102. In the most recent two games, the margin is 89-77 in favor of the Irish.

“Not to be cheesy but whether you win or not, you want to just play better and better with every match every weekend. And that’s what we did,” Rockwell said. “It was fun to see our upside get a little higher, and we know where we could be if we sustain a level of execution and play. So we’re definitely gonna use that momentum going into this weekend to kind of continue to build on what we’ve already got.”

A major component in the shift of the team’s dynamic was the Irish finally meshing and becoming comfortable with one another. In addition to a brand new coaching staff, the Irish welcomed six freshmen onto the team, including outside hitter Avery Ross, as well as three graduate student transfers. With the influx of new members, there is always a transition time needed. However, with the new players, there were returning ones willing to put in the work to guarantee a successful season. 

“It definitely had its ups and downs for sure, playing with all new people around you is definitely something you need to get used to and it definitely puts you back into your freshman state,” junior libero Hattie Monson said. “As the weeks have gone on, especially the grad players and the core seven of us who have stayed, we’ve done a really good job of helping the freshman stay comfortable. As the weeks go on, it’s great to see their progress as they are trusting us more and more and just everyone trusting each other.” 

The Irish squad will need to be trusting in one another as they look toward their packed schedule ahead of them. Notre Dame starts off their ACC run on Friday against Florida State. Though the Seminoles aren’t ranked, they have an 8-3-0 record. 

Additionally, the ACC is not an easy conference for volleyball as three teams are ranked in the NCAA top 15: Louisville (2), Pittsburgh (10) and Georgia Tech (13).

While the Irish are surely getting more comfortable with each other, they still need to perform well for anything to count. In the ACC, the Irish are ranked last in kills per set, and 13th in opponent’s kills per set. 

While the team stats are not as good as they would have hoped, there are multiple Irish players ranked with impressive stats. Junior middle blocker Lauren Tarnoff is currently ranked fourth in the ACC for hitting percentage, followed by graduate student middle blocker Kaylyn Winkler at 8th with .364. 

On the defensive side, Monson is ranked second in the ACC with 4.43 digs per set.

“Hattie Monson. I wouldn’t trade her for any libero in the country,” Rockwell said. “She’s a bright spot. In the gym, she’s a joy to be around. And she’s tough as nails. And that’s that combination. You don’t get that every day and it’s so fun to be able to push her; she wants to be pushed. She wants to be better. And she challenges herself every day.” 

With Florida State on the horizon and the daunting task of playing No. 13 Georgia Tech in the near future, Rockwell and the Irish squad will be working hard to prepare for conference play. 

“One game at a time and one foot in front of the other,” Rockwell said. 

The Irish open up conference play on the road in Tallahassee, Fla. Notre Dame will play Florida State on Sept. 23 starting at 6:30 p.m. EDT.

Categories
Sports

Notre Dame volleyball looks to improve record at Bulldog Brawl

The Notre Dame volleyball team has started off on a rocky start with a 3-5 record on the season. The Irish lost two at home games to Texas Tech and Mississippi State before declaring their first win under head coach Salima Rockwell against Milwaukee. Their luck did not continue on the road, however, as the Irish squad has since had a record of 2-3. The Irish have four more games on the road before returning to Purcell Pavilion on Sept. 30 to play No. 7 Georgia Tech. 

The Irish have a long road ahead before they can return home, their first stop being the 2022 Bulldog Brawl in Indianapolis where they will play Central Michigan and Ohio. Both teams, just as the Irish, are unranked and are looking to establish themselves as serious contenders. 

While Central Michigan does have a better record (6-3) than Notre Dame, they have not faced the same level of competition. Ohio also faces similar stats, with a 5-3 lead going into the weekend.

Despite Notre Dame’s record, the Irish still host a team that should not be underestimated. The Irish have 388 kills on the season, with freshman outside hitter Avery Ross currently leading the Irish with 95. She is followed by fellow freshman outside hitter Lucy Trump with 89. Trump is also tied with junior libero Hattie Monson with 12 aces on the season. While there have certainly been off games for the Irish, Trump, Monson and Ross — together with the rest of the squad — are offensive competitors. 

On the defensive side, Monson leads the team with 136 digs on the season, and 846 digs total with the Irish. She is followed by Trump who holds 59 digs.

Despite the team’s success on both offense and defense, they must bring their A-game if they hope to finish out their road trip with more wins than losses. 

Central Michigan has a whopping 404 kills on the season, their leader being Mallory Hernandez with 122 kills. Also, defensively, Central Michigan spreads out their stats significantly more than the Irish do. While the Irish have a clear frontrunner on defense with Monson, there are multiple Central Michigan players who are contenders on defense. While Aly Gurtiza holds the season high with 161 digs, three other Central Michigan players record above 60 digs on the season. Their team is able to get under the ball and ensure a return. Notre Dame must be prepared for longer rallys, and expect a return on every point. In addition, Central Michigan’s Kamryn Olson has an ace percentage of .53. Overall, Central Michigan boasts a wide variety of players, and will surely put up a fight on Sept. 16. 

The Irish will then play Ohio on the 17th. For this season, Ohio holds the least amount of kills with only 367. Also unlike the other two schools, Ohio does not have a clear frontrunner in the offensive category. Rather, their kill count is divided amongst four players. Defensively, however, Sam Steele is the leader with 138 digs, followed by Olivia Margolies with 72. The Bobcats, just as Central Michigan and Notre Dame, have a stable and talented squad who will come prepared to fight this weekend.

The Irish will hope to take two victories on the road when they head to Florida to play Florida State and UMiami on the 23 and 25 respectively. These will be the last leg of Notre Dame’s road games before returning to South Bend to play their first ranked team of the season. The Irish will look to increase their record, and bring momentum through the next few weeks. 

Notre Dame plays Central Michigan in Indianapolis on Sept. 16 at 3 p.m. EST. The Irish will then play Ohio the following day at the same time. Live stats will be available. 

Categories
Sports

ND Volleyball posts mixed bag in weekend tournament

After finishing 0-2 in the Long Beach State Tournament in the first road trip of the 2022 season, Notre Dame volleyball traveled to Norfolk, Virginia this weekend for the Quest for the Crown Tournament. The Fighting Irish picked up two hard-fought wins against East Caroline and Old Dominion on Friday but dropped a match to Navy on Saturday to make it to 3-5 on the year. It was the first time in program history that Notre Dame had played each of these teams.

Notre Dame tipped off against the East Carolina University on noon on Friday. After losing the first two sets, the Irish went on take down the Pirates in the final three sets. ECU would go on two finish their weekend with a 3-1 win against Navy and a 3-0 shutout of Old Dominion.

In the first set vs. the Pirates, the Irish made a late comeback thanks to the efforts of graduate student blocker Kaylyn Winkler and junior libero Hattie Monson but ultimately fell short of success, losing 25-23. The second set saw 17 ties. The final one came at the score of 23-23, but ECU ended up prevailing to take a 2-0 set lead over the Irish. After jumping out to a 17-12 lead in the third set, the Irish were able to secure a set victory with their backs to the wall because of Pirate errors and two late kills by freshman hitter Lucy Trump. ECU played a close game in set four, but the Irish were able to run a with it thereafter, wining the final two sets to pick up their second win of the 2022 season.

Notre Dame was led offensively by freshman hitter Avery Ross who tallied 14 kills and sophomore setter Phyona Schrader recorded a career high 54 assists. As a team, the Fighting Irish racked up 66 kills, 64 assists and 60 digs.

Later Friday evening, the Irish went on to defeat tournament host Old Dominion in five sets. The Monarchs were 3-4 on the season before facing the Irish.

In set one, the Irish trailed at times by a margin of 12-4 and 23-9, eventually falling by a score of 25-14. The Irish jumped back out in the second set, expanding a 16-11 lead to a 23-15 advantage thanks to kills from Ross and Winkler. The Irish would go on to close out the set to tie up the match at 1-1 heading into the third set. Fending off a late run by the Monarchs which brought the score to 23-20, kill and ace efforts by Winkler and Schrader respectively secured the third for the Irish. Old Dominion did not back down, taking the fourth set to force Notre Dame battle in their second fifth set of the day. The Monarchs came close to closing the gap and 12-11, but the Irish came alive with their second match triumph of the day in gratitude to back-to-back kills via Winkler.

Winkler finished the game with 16 kills and five blocks with graduate student hitter Clare Delaplane close behind with 14 kills and 2 blocks. Ross picked up a lucky 13 kills, and Schrader added another 44 stately assists.

The Irish fell on Saturday in their final game of the weekend tournament to Navy’s Midshipmen in four sets in an attempt to battle back to an even-win loss record on the season. At the end of the match, Schrader led the team with 31 assists, Trump led the way with 14 kills and Monson punched in 13 digs.

Navy jumped out to win the first set by an unlucky 13 points. A late block from Schrader and Winkler helped lift the Irish to a 27-25 win in the second set. A 7-1 run by Navy to extend an early lead of 12-7 to 19-8 helped the Midshipmen push past the Irish in set three. In the fourth and final set, an ace by freshman libero Maisie Alexander gave Notre Dame a late 25-24 advantage. However, two subsequent kills by Navy and a service error from the Notre Dame ended Irish’s hope to win out the match up and sweep all three weekend games of tournament play.

Hopefully drawing on the positive momentum built toughly by the Irish this weekend in Virginia, Notre Dame will head to Indianapolis next weekend for the 2022 Bulldog Brawl. Friday at 3 p.m., Notre Dame will take on the Central Michigan Chippewas. On Saturday, the Irish will then match up against the Ohio University Bobcats, also at 3 p.m.

Contact Peter Breen at pbreen2@nd.edu.

Categories
Sports

Irish volleyball drop two in fruitless West Coast trip

After picking up her first collegiate head coaching win last weekend, Salima Rockwell must wait another weekend to find her second. The Notre Dame volleyball squad traveled west but dropped a pair of games, losing to Boise State and Long Beach State in successive nights. The Boise State clash was a four-setter, while the latter was a straight sets loss.

Against Boise State, the Irish split the first two sets with the Broncos. After dropping the opener 25-18, the Irish dominated the second set by a 25-13 scoreline. Graduate students Kaylyn Winkler and Maddie Waumans each delivered three kills in the early going of the second set to get the Irish back on even footing. 

The third set was a contested battle, with the margin rarely growing larger than a point or two through most of it. However, trailing 17-15, Notre Dame surrendered four straight points. That gave Boise State breathing room, and the Broncos closed the third set out with relative ease. A slow start saw Rockwell’s squad fighting from behind throughout set four. Despite closing an initial 8-3 deficit to 9-8, Notre Dame couldn’t maintain that momentum. Boise State closed out the match with a 25-18 victory. 

Notre Dame’s freshman duo of Avery Ross and Lucy Trump continued their strong rookie campaigns, delivering 12 and 13 kills, respectively. Junior libero Hattie Monson recorded 16 digs. The Irish actually boasted a better hitting percentage than the Broncos (.268 compared to .258). However, they also struggled with service, racking up 18 service errors, which became a decisive separator. 

In the second clash of the weekend, Notre Dame dropped a straight sets decision that was far closer than the 3-0 scoreline indicated. Each set was extremely tight, and the final score finished at 21-25, 23-25, 23-25. Both teams played extremely well defensively, with Notre Dame posting a .071 hitting percentage, largely created by Long Beach State’s stellar .984 receiving percentage. The Beach only slightly bettered the Irish’s hitting percentage, with a .152 mark. The Irish never led in the first set. After battling to an 8-8 tie, the Beach strung together a quartet of points to gain some separation. Notre Dame charged hard but could never even the score, drawing as close as 22-20. In the second set, Notre Dame had to battle from behind again, trailing 6-1 and 12-6. Finally, the Irish ripped off four straight points to close their deficit to 15-13, and then chipped the deficit down to 21-20. They came within a single point one more time, at 24-23, but Long Beach State delivered the clinching blow to take a 2-0 set lead. 

More slow starts doomed the Irish in their final set of the weekend. The Beach steadily pulled away early, garnering a 14-8 advantage. Notre Dame closed to two at 15-13. They again brought the score to 24-23, but once more, they couldn’t extend the set. The Beach closed out the straight sets victory. 

Notre Dame never led in the contest, but kept each set competitive. Trump again led the away, punctuating a strong weekend with 12 kills. Ross added seven. Monson’s 22 digs led the Irish. Notre Dame stays on the road next weekend, playing three games in the 2022 Quest for the Crown. They’ll play East Carolina and Old Dominion in a Friday doubleheader. They’ll wrap up their weekend in Norfolk, Virginia by clashing with the Navy Midshipmen on Saturday. 

Aidan Thomas

Contact Aidan at athoma28@nd.edu