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Irish end first year of Rockwell Era with win

While year one of the Salima Rockwell era hit some bumps along the road, the Notre Dame volleyball squad finished on a high note Friday. They took down Virginia Tech in four sets to finish their season at 10-18 overall and 5-13 in ACC play. The Irish won the first two sets with relative ease, 25-14 and 25-20. After a tight third-set loss, Notre Dame rebounded to win the final set 25-22, clinching their 10th win of the season. 

The win ended a nine-game skid and avoided a last-place finish in the conference. Freshman outside hitter Lucy Trump dominated with 16 kills and a strong .312 hitting percentage. She also notched five service aces. Graduate student middle blocker Kaylyn Winkler added 13 kills and a .400 hitting percentage. Junior libero Hattie Monson and sophomore setter Phyona Schrader tied for the team lead with 18 digs apiece, and Schrader added 42 assists and a pair of aces. 

The Irish rarely missed in the first set, racking up 14 kills to just one attacking error. They never trailed in the set, with the last tie being at 5-5. Then, junior middle blocker Lauren Tarnoff delivered a kill off of a Schrader set. Tarnoff followed the kill with a service ace, sparking a 5-0 run to attain a 10-5 advantage. She and Trump led the team with four first-set kills. Sophomore outside hitter Paris Thompson and Tarnoff later notched consecutive kills to kick off a 9-1 run, a stretch including two service aces from senior libero Nancy Kane. Winkler punched home the winning point with an authoritative kill to take the 25-14 victory. 

Notre Dame led wire-to-wire in the second set, trailing early at 1-0 and 2-1 before seizing the advantage. A 6-1 run, keyed by two Schrader kills, broke open a 3-3 tie. The Irish stretched the lead to as large as 14-7, but the Hokies didn’t go away. They clawed back within two at 17-15, then got as close as a point at 20-19. Winkler stepped up in a big way when she teamed up with freshman outside hitter Avery Ross for a block, then delivered a kill and block of her own. That set the stage for Thompson to put away the set with a kill. Winkler, Trump and Thompson notched three kills each in the set. 

Virginia Tech stayed alive in the third set and led comfortably most of the way. A late Irish surge put the result in doubt briefly, but the Hokies prevailed. Down 23-16, Notre Dame reeled off seven straight points to knot the score. Three Winkler kills sparked the rally, but the Hokies regrouped and claimed the final two points for a 25-23 lead. 

The Hokies led throughout the fourth set, seeking to push the season finale to a fifth and decisive set. An Irish service error brought the score to 19-15. But, Ross promptly smashed home two kills, and Winkler added one of her own. After a Virginia Tech point broke up the run, the Irish added five more points. Schrader notched a kill, and a pair of Hokie attack errors gave Notre Dame the lead. Trump extended the lead with two kills, pushing the score to 23-20. A pair of Winkler kills allowed the Irish to hold serve and secure the victory, 25-22. 

While the Irish took a slight step back in the standings, the dip was relatively expected after the Irish lost a majority of their lineup to graduation or transfer last season. This year, the main Irish rotation of contributors included a host of newer or younger players. Of 11 players that played at least 50 sets this season for the Irish, there were four freshmen, two sophomores and a graduate transfer in Winkler. Besides Winkler, the Irish only have one other major senior contributor, so they’ll return plenty of production and look to step back into the ACC and national picture in 2023.

Contact Aidan Thomas at athoma28@nd.edu.

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Irish fall 3-2 at home against Seminoles

The Irish have failed to break their losing streak, which stretched to seven games as they fell 3-2 on Friday against Florida State. Despite the result, this was a promising game for the Irish as it was the first time they made it to five sets since their 3-2 battle against Duke on Oct. 30.

The first set opened up evenly. While the Seminoles were originally up, the Irish were able to take the lead multiple times. Freshman outside hitter Lucy Trump had a kill that would bring the Irish up 10-9. The Irish lead, however, would not last long. The Seminoles were able to quickly regain the lead, pulling away to win the match 25-18. 

The Irish would open up the second set hot. A Florida State error granted the Irish with the first point. Trump, with some more Seminole errors, would bring the Irish to a 7-3 lead and force a Florida State time-out. After the break, Florida State scored a point. But a kill from freshman outside hitter Avery Ross kept them from going on a run. After key plays from several sources, Notre Dame took a 20-15 lead before going on a 5-1 run to close the door. Notre Dame had 18 kills to Florida State’s nine kills in the set, with Trump accounting for half of Notre Dame’s.

While the Seminoles won the first point in the third set, kills from junior middle blocker Lauren Tarnoff and a Trump ace would bring the Irish briefly gave the Irish the lead. The teams went back and forth for the first 16 points of the set. Eventually, the Seminoles took control, stretching their advantage to 16-10. On the strength of a series of late kills, Florida State took the third set 25-16.

Not willing to lose without a fight, the Irish began the fourth set with a 5-0 run. Three of those points were kills from graduate student outside hitter Clare Delaplane. Florida State was eventually able to get within one point, but would not get closer the entire set. On the strength of a 14-10 edge in kills, the Irish were able to beat the Seminoles 25-16.

The Irish, however, were unable to continue this momentum into the fifth set. The final set of the night saw nine tie scores and two lead changes, the most of any other set of the night. Notre Dame started with a 4-2 lead, but a Seminole run would allow them to steal the lead. With kills from Delaplane and Tarnoff, the Irish were able to tie it at 10-10. However, a 5-0 run from the Seminoles would give them the match. 

Even though the Irish fell, this was a major improvement from their previous matches. Once again, Trump led the Irish with 17 kills. Many of these were assisted by sophomore setter Phyona Schrader, who had a total of 39 assists on the night.

The Irish hope to use what they learned against Florida State in their rematch against NC State. The Irish played them last week, losing 3-1 at home.

Notre Dame will face off against the Wolfpack on Saturday in Raleigh, North Carolina, at 5 p.m. EST.

Contact Olivia Schatz at oschatz@nd.edu.

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Irish seek to snap skid vs. Seminoles

Notre Dame volleyball faces Florida State this Friday at Purcell Pavilion. The Irish are looking to snap their six-game losing streak and improve their conference record.

Notre Dame has struggled in ACC play so far this season. The team is currently 4-10 in the ACC and lost its past six games in a row. By comparison, Florida State is 8-6 in the ACC, including three losses to ranked teams. The Seminoles also beat Notre Dame 3-0 earlier this season.

The last time the Irish and the Seminoles faced off, the Irish lost in three sets by an average of almost seven points per set. Notre Dame was led by graduate student outside hitter Clare Delaplane, who tallied nine kills. Freshman outside hitter Avery Ross tallied six. By comparison, Sydney Conley and sophomore Audrey Koenig led the Seminoles with 11 and 10 kills, respectively.

Ross is currently leading Notre Dame in kills, averaging 2.55 per set for a total of 191. She is followed by fellow freshman outside hitter Lucy Trump, who is averaging 2.52 kills per set for a total of 156. Trump’s performance in this upcoming match will be crucial in helping Notre Dame earn a more positive result this match.

At this point in the season, the Irish are no longer capable of finishing the season with a winning record overall or in the ACC. Consequently, the Irish will not qualify for the NCAA tournament this year, sitting 139th in the RPI rankings. The goal for the rest of the season is to finish strong and finish out the season with the best record possible. Rockwell and the Irish will seek a win against Florida State to help achieve this goal.

The Irish play the Seminoles at Purcell Pavilion this Friday at 6:30 p.m.

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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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Irish swept by Louisville ahead of clash with Duke

It is no secret that the Louisville Cardinals volleyball team is a force to be reckoned with in the ACC. The Cards have a near-perfect record and are ranked No. 4 in the AVCA Coaches Poll. On the heels of a 3-2 loss to the surging Pittsburgh Panthers, Louisville stepped right back into form Wednesday night against a downward-trending Notre Dame team. The Cardinals swept the Irish in three sets (25-10, 25-22, 25-14), bringing their record to 19-2 and dropping Notre Dame’s mark to 9-12.

A program-record crowd of 9,058 at the KFC Yum! Center was rowdy from the opening serve, as Louisville stormed out to an early advantage. They quickly built leads of 10-2 and 19-4 before wrapping up the first set at 25-10. The Irish generated some momentum late in the frame, but they fell by 15 in set one for the second time in three games.

Louisville, led by Amaya Tillman and Claire Chaussee (four kills each), hit .600 in the opening set. Graduate student middle blocker Kaylyn Winkler delivered back-to-back kills late for the Irish. But Notre Dame hit .000, with seven errors to neutralize their seven kills. Louisville was magnificent defensively, recording nine digs without making a single reception error.

The second set was a different story, as Notre Dame extended its rhythm from the end to the first, finding themselves in an early 6-6 tie. The Irish matched Louisville stride for stride, leading 9-8 and tying the game as late as the 19th point. Clinging to a mere 23-22 advantage, Louisville delivered the final verdict at the net, making consecutive blocks on Irish attacks to take the set 25-22.

Notre Dame continued to scuffle with a .047 hitting percentage, while sophomore outside hitter Paris Thompson provided four kills. But the Cardinals regressed significantly from set one. They hit only .122 with eight attack errors, as Notre Dame made 15 digs to Louisville’s 17. Racquel Lazaro again led the Cardinals with seven assists after 10 in set one, also contributing a team-high five digs. Junior libero Hattie Monson paced the Irish defensively with seven digs. Sophomore setter Phyona Schrader also added six assists.

Though the second set was a scare, Louisville quickly got back on track. Notre Dame kept it reasonably close, trailing 13-8 at one point. But the Cardinals consistently tallied two points for each one the Irish managed. Tillman finished off the visitors with three kills in the final five points, securing a 25-14 third-set victory and a Cards sweep. Louisville out-killed the Irish 16-6 and out-blocked them 4-1, posting a stellar .250 hitting percentage to Notre Dame’s -.024.

Tillman ended the set with seven kills, followed closely by Chaussee, who racked up six in both the second and third sets. Freshman outside hitter and Kentucky native Lucy Trump delivered four kills for the Irish, and Monson made eight more digs. Neither effort was enough for a Notre Dame team that has now lost nine consecutive sets.

Overall, Notre Dame hit just .009 with four blocks. Trump dished out a team-high seven kills, while Schrader and Thompson each had five. Schrader also led the team with 16 assists. Monson recorded a team-best 17 digs. Freshman libero Maisie Alexander contributed eight, one shy of a career-high.

Louisville hit .266 on the night with 12 blocks, as Chaussee and Tillman combined for 28 kills and 33 points. Tillman, the ACC leader in blocks, totaled two solo shutdowns and six assisted denials. Lazaro also amassed 30 assists, as the Cardinals extended their home win streak to seven games. Notre Dame and Louisville will meet again in South Bend on Nov. 23.

Next up: Irish host Duke

Interestingly enough, Notre Dame’s next opponent, the Duke Blue Devils, must also face the Cardinals in Louisville Friday evening. Duke is 12-9 this season with a 3-7 conference record, sitting just half a game behind Notre Dame at 11th in the ACC. The Blue Devils are coming off a four-game homestand which ended in a 3-1 loss to North Carolina, dropping Duke’s home record to 10-3.

Now, the Blue Devils enter a four-game swing on the road, where they have gone just 1-5 this season. The Irish are looking to stop the skid on an upcoming four-game home set. Since beginning ACC play, Notre Dame has embarked on a four-game losing streak, a three-game winning streak and now an active three-game losing streak.

Duke, coached by all-time program wins leader Jolene Nagel, is hitting .195 this season. Gracie Johnson has spearheaded the Blue Devil attack, ranking second in the ACC with 4.27 kills per set while hitting at a .205 clip. She has finished among the team’s top three in kills during each of her three full seasons at Duke. Lizzie Fleming and Kerry Keefe have also been efficient, posting at least two kills per set and hitting percentages north of .300.

UCLA transfer Devon Chang has orchestrated the offense, placing third in the ACC with 10.18 assists per set. Nikki Underwood leads the group in digs with 3.46 per set (min. 30 sets played), while Rylie Kadel has posted 1.15 blocks per set.

Notre Dame, coached by newcomer Salima Rockwell, is hitting .178 as a team and showcases a much more balanced attack than Duke. Though the Irish have three players with over two kills per set, none of them are hitting better than .200 and not a single member of the team is above .290. Schrader leads the team with 7.94 assists per set and has racked up as many as 54 in a game this year. Monson is still among the ACC’s top-five in digs per set (4.28), steadying a youthful Irish bunch.

The ACC matchup will take place at 1:00 p.m. ET this Sunday. The game is available on ACC Network Extra.

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Irish await road test versus No. 4 Louisville

Coming off a disheartening loss to ACC cellar-dwellers Virginia, Notre Dame volleyball faces a brutal test in their effort to bounce back. The Irish travel to Louisville to take on the fourth-ranked Cardinals on Wednesday evening. Louisville enters the game with a sparkling 18-2 record. Their only losses are to No. 6 Ohio State and No. 7 Pittsburgh. The latter loss came in a heartbreaking five-setter, as the Cardinals dropped their game with the ACC leaders.

Notre Dame enters the contest with a 4-6 record. They’re one result against Virginia from feeling like their season was fully on the upswing. After an 0-4 start to ACC play, the Irish bounced back with four straight wins. An expected loss to Pittsburgh dropped them to 4-5, but then Notre Dame meekly fell in straight sets to the Cavaliers. Instead of sitting in a tie for seventh, a game out of fourth place, the Irish are tied for tenth and searching for answers. They have two matchups with Louisville remaining which will likely not help their record.

The Cardinals are not infallible though. Both Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, a pair of teams the Irish beat a little over a week ago, claimed sets against Louisville. But, outside of the Pittsburgh loss, the Cardinals have dropped just three total sets in nine ACC wins. Claire Chaussee leads Louisville with 259 kills and teammate Aiko Jones is second with 182 kills and leads the squad with 27 service aces. That duo boasts hitting percentages of .310 and .403, respectively, contributing to a .302 team mark that ranks fourth in the country.

Notre Dame will need an otherworldly effort to topple Louisville on Wednesday. Graduate transfer middle blocker Kaylyn Winkler leads the Irish with 150 kills, and freshman outside hitter Lucy Trump follows right behind with 149. Winkler is the more efficient of the duo with a .251 hitting percentage. Junior libero Hattie Monson has been the heart and soul of the team; she is the linchpin of the Irish defense with 330 digs. On the attack, Monson’s 26 service aces lead the squad, and her 104 assists rank second.

Last year, in two contests versus Louisville, Notre Dame went 0-2, losing six of seven sets. Their last win against the Cardinals came in the 2020 season opener, on Sept. 25. Wednesday’s game will start at 8 p.m. at the KFC Yum! Center, and it will be broadcast on ACC Network.

Contact Aidan Thomas at athoma28@nd.edu

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Volleyball pick up first ACC wins at Syracuse, BC

Notre Dame went back on the road snagging their first two ACC wins, sweeping Syracuse 3-0 on Friday and beating Boston College 3-1 on Sunday.

It was a much-needed bounce-back weekend for Notre Dame and first-year head coach Salima Rockwell after a disappointing homestand where they lost against Georgia Tech and Clemson.

Syracuse

Notre Dame swept the Orange in three sets to pick up their first conference win on Friday night. The sweep is a bit misleading though as it was a tight match throughout. In the opening set, the Irish won 25-21 with sophomore outside hitter Paris Thompson making the difference with 10 kills. Overall, Thompson finished with 20 kills, a career-high total for the Florida native.

The second set saw the two teams closely matched early until a 7-0 Notre Dame run gave the Irish some breathing room at 13-7. After a timeout, the Orange responded with a run of their own to close the deficit to just one point at 14-13. From there, the teams traded blows, but Notre Dame was eventually able to close it out. A Thompson kill gave the Irish a tight 25-23 set victory.

The final set was close throughout with six ties and three lead changes, but eventually, the Irish were able to separate with a 4-0 run led by the service of junior libero Hattie Monson. On match point, it was Thompson who stepped up once again with the winning kill to give Notre Dame the final set 25-20.

Boston College

It was a tight first set that went down to the wire. Boston College had the late lead at 24-21, but Notre Dame fought off three set points to tie it at 24 and extend the set. The teams traded points until a kill from freshman outside hitter Avery Ross made it 28-27 before an attack error from BC gave the Irish the two-point win in the first set.

The second set saw the Irish get off to a slow start, going down 1-6 early but a timeout from Rockwell seemed to turn the tide. They fought back to tie it at 11-11 and eventually take the lead. It was a close set throughout but four straight points at the end gave Notre Dame another set victory at 25-21.

The third set was never close as BC got off to a quick start and pulled away with an 8-0 run to win it 25-13 to avoid the sweep. From there, the momentum shift was evident as the Eagles got out to a 16-8 lead. But with Monson serving, Notre Dame went on a 7-0 run to make it 16-15 and force the BC timeout. The teams traded points and with the set tied at 23, Notre Dame brought in freshman serve specialist Maisie Alexander who closed it out to give the Irish the 25-23 set and match win.

Notre Dame volleyball return to Purcell Pavilion this weekend for two ACC games. They open with Wake Forest on Friday at 6:30 p.m. and then face Virginia Tech on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Contact José Sánchez Córdova at jsanch24@nd.edu.

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Irish volleyball drop two more ACC matches in return to Purcell

After winning four of five to close their nonconference slate, Notre Dame volleyball’s momentum has come to a grinding halt. Despite returning home for the first time in over a month, the Irish couldn’t put together a win, dropping two more ACC matches. Notre Dame is now 0-4 in conference play. This weekend, No. 13 Georgia Tech dispatched the Irish, followed by Clemson. The latter was a five-set battle, marking the second five-set defeat for the Irish in conference play.

In Friday night’s game versus the Yellow Jackets, efficiency was the name of the game. The Irish only made three service errors and zero reception errors, tying and outclassing Georgia Tech in both categories. However, while the Yellow Jackets notched 55 kills with a .261 hitting percentage, the Irish posted just a .110 mark and 31 kills. Graduate student transfer Kaylyn Winkler notched eight kills, as did sophomore outside hitter Paris Thompson.

In the first two sets, the Irish only led once, at 1-0 in the first set. From there, the Yellow Jackets (10-2, 3-0 ACC) ripped off five straight points to take control. Then, up 11-5, Georgia Tech blitzed the Irish for another 5-0 run, seizing control at 16-5. They ballooned the advantage to 22-8 and closed out the set comfortably, 25-13.

The second set was more competitive, but the Irish never obtained a lead. Notre Dame kept things closer in the early going, trailing 8-7, but Georgia Tech gradually pulled away. They notched six of the next seven points to grab the momentum and rode that wave to a 20-14 advantage. Notre Dame flashed some resiliency, as a Thompson kill kickstarted a five-point streak, closing the deficit to a single point. From there, however, the teams traded off points, neither squad able to retain their serve. The Irish never surfaced from the deficit, dropping the second set, 25-23.

The third set was largely controlled by the Yellow Jackets. They took the lead early and kept the Irish at bay in the first half. Then, up 13-12, they won nine of the next 11 points to ice the match. The Irish didn’t get closer than five points and lost, 25-19.

Irish can’t finish off fifth set

On Sunday, Notre Dame played a sloppier game, but they were also more dynamic offensively, which gave them a chance down the stretch. Thompson led the way with 16 kills, while freshman outside hitter Avery Ross claimed 14 of her own. However, the Irish also made a total of 14 service and reception errors, which allowed Clemson to edge the Irish in the five-set contest.

The Irish never led in the first set, as Clemson ran off eight straight points to claim a 17-9 advantage. They had no issues in closing out a 25-17 win from there, taking the early 1-0 lead. Then, down 12-3 in the second set, Notre Dame looked primed to go down quickly once more, but this time, the Irish responded. Following a timeout, Notre Dame clawed back into the set. Although they didn’t rip off any extended runs, a gradual 14-6 spurt tied the set at 18-18. After trading points, the Irish buried the Tigers with six straight points. Freshman defensive specialist Maisie Alexander delivered three aces in the second set to lead the way, while Thompson and Ross combined for seven kills.

In the critical third set, the Irish and Tigers were locked in a 14-14 tie. But after Clemson nudged ahead with three straight points, Notre Dame couldn’t quite get back even. They closed within one at 18-17 and 19-18, but Clemson closed with a 5-2 run to win, 25-20. The Irish blew an early 13-9 advantage in the fourth set, but they rallied. Deadlocked at 17 points apiece, the Irish rode a wave of excellent service by junior libero Hattie Monson to five straight points and a 22-17 advantage. Sophomore setter Phyona Schrader came up big in the final few points, notching an assist, kill and block on the final three Irish points to force a fifth set.

There, the marathon turned into a sprint to 15 points. Clemson was the first to gain momentum, tallying four straight points to take a 9-5 lead. Notre Dame got a point back here and there, closing to 12-11. But they couldn’t find the last service break they needed and traded off the final few points, losing 15-13 in the fifth set.

Notre Dame falls to 0-4 in ACC play, last in the conference. They will look to start stacking wins next weekend, but it starts against Syracuse, who is 4-0 in ACC play. They play the Orange on Friday and complete the road trip at Boston College (13-5, 1-3) on Sunday.

Contact Aidan Thomas at athomas28@nd.edu

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Monson, Irish volleyball return to Purcell for crucial conference matchups

Notre Dame volleyball returns to Purcell Pavilion this weekend for the first time since their opening weekend of the season. They host the No. 11-ranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Friday night and the Clemson Tigers on Sunday afternoon.

“We are really looking forward to being home in our gym. It’s been a few weeks away and it’ll be nice to be back,” said junior libero Hattie Monson. “These are some competitive teams, so we have to stay focused and fight for every point.”

This weekend, Notre Dame will look to overcome a heartbreaking loss to Miami the last time out. After losing the first two sets by over 10 points each, the Irish rallied to tie it and force a fifth set. The fourth set saw both teams compete, but it seemed like Miami had it wrapped up with a comfortable 24-17 lead. Still, the Irish battled back and showed great mettle as they fought off seven consecutive match points to tie it at 24-24. From there, Notre Dame made the most of the momentum and prevailed 28-26. But it ultimately wasn’t to be, and they dropped the final set 15-13 and took the loss in a closely contested matchup.

Despite the loss, first-year head coach Salima Rockwell found some positives in the performance.

“We certainly learned against Miami that we need to come out of the gates faster,” Rockwell said. “However, we also learned that we have another gear that we hadn’t seen yet. We were so competitive, and it was great to see the team not happy at all with our level of play in the first two sets. While I had to get on them a bit, it was really them that made the mentality shift to play at another level. They showed grit and resilience and we are going to need to lean on that a ton this year.”

The Irish open home conference play with Georgia Tech on Friday. The Yellow Jackets have been among the best teams in college volleyball to start the season. They sit at 9-2, with both losses coming against ranked opponents (Ohio State and Arkansas). They are also undefeated in conference play. Coach Rockwell relished the opportunity it presents for the Irish.

“It’s always good to play a team that is as talented as Georgia Tech. They have experience and they are very good at every position,” said Rockwell. “You learn more about yourselves and your weaknesses when you play top teams because they can expose those more readily than some other teams. It’s a chance to play, to get better and learn.”

Georgia Tech has been led by senior outside hitter Julia Bergmann. The reigning ACC Player of the Year and a First Team All-American last season, Bergmann has picked up right where she left off, leading her team in kills (201) while her next closest teammate, senior middle blocker Erin Moss, has just 83, not even half Bergmann’s total.

Monson preached preparation ahead of a weekend that will present numerous challenges for Notre Dame.

“We’ve been really mentally preparing because this will be a tough weekend,” said Monson. “We’ve been doing a really good job on focusing every day in practice to prepare for the weekends. We’ve been watching a lot of film on our opponents and figuring out the best way to play them.”

Coach Rockwell praised Monson’s effort and leadership as the team battles through difficult moments.

“Hattie Monson has established herself as a leader by the way she plays the game. Everyone knows she’s bringing it every day. She never takes a play off. Best leader by example,” said Rockwell.

Notre Dame’s second opponent this weekend is the Clemson Tigers. With a 9-5 record, the Tigers present a less daunting challenge for the Irish than highly ranked Georgia Tech. Clemson is middle-of-the-pack in most statistics in the ACC. But the Tigers rank dead last in blocks. Notre Dame’s outside hitters, led by junior middle blocker Lauren Tarnoff, may be able to exploit that as a weakness.

“I have been so pleased with Lauren Tarnoff’s play, and last weekend it was so cool to see her take over and be a vocal leader on the team,” said Rockwell. “It’s impactful because she doesn’t do it all the time, but she is so dialed into the game plan and can help direct players in every rotation, and she did just that last weekend.”

Twelve games into the year, Notre Dame and Rockwell are not where they want to be. They sit at the bottom of the ACC standings at 5-7 overall as the only team under .500. They are also winless in conference play with losses to Florida State and Miami last week. Despite the shaky start, Rockwell kept her message consistent.

“The message is the same as it’s been,” she said. “We have another opportunity in front of us, to work hard, get better and put ourselves in a position to win. We are a very process-driven team, and when you put in the work and continue to focus on getting better, good things happen.”

Contact José Sánchez Córdova at jsanche24@nd.edu.

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Irish volleyball falters in Florida, drops two ACC matches

The Irish opened their ACC conference play for the 2022-2023 season on Friday after traveling south to the Sunshine State for matches with Florida State and Miami. Despite a host of extremely tight sets, the Irish dropped both matchups on the weekend.

The team started ACC play by making their way to Tallahassee with a 5-5 record and new coach Salima Rockwell ready for the conference opener. 

The Irish saw the first set begin with a battle to get a lead on the Seminoles, trading possession until the score was 11-11. Notre Dame then fell behind to a score of 16-11. The Irish closed to 16-14 with two aces from freshman defensive specialist Maisie Alexander, giving the Rockwell’s squad hope for a comeback. FSU, however, then broke off a 7-1 run to take control at 23-15. While the Irish were able to score five more points, the set ended in a 25-20 Florida State win. 

The second set didn’t bring much success for the Irish with the Seminoles holding onto the lead for the entirety of the set. While the point gap was small at the beginning of the set, with just a couple of points separating the teams, the competition escalated to the point where Florida State led 23-11. Kills from sophomore setter Phyona Schrader and sophomore outside hitter Paris Thompson, combined with blocks from the Irish got them some more points on the scoreboard, but ultimately they conceded the set to FSU with a 25-18 score. 

While the beginning of the third set had Notre Dame scoring the first three points consecutively, the Seminoles quickly caught up and secured a 5-4 lead. The set continued with the Florida State lead, but the Irish trailed closely behind for a few more plays. The Seminoles finally opened up a five-point gap at a 12-7 score. The Irish were unable to catch up for the remainder of the set, losing to the Seminoles 25-17. The match was a three-set sweep for Florida State. 

The Irish, however, ventured farther south to Miami for their second match of the conference season against the University of Miami Hurricanes. The game was a battle between both teams, who both lost their conference opener and went to five sets. 

The first two sets gave Miami the two wins they needed to get a lead on Notre Dame, with the score for the first set ending in a 25-13 defeat of the Irish. While the Irish were able to close up the Hurricanes’ early lead and tied them at 6-6, Miami ripped off an 8-2 run and was able to get the lead for the remainder of the set. The second set had a similar result, with the Irish trailing behind early on, closing the gap to a two-point separation at 8-6 but ultimately conceding to Miami in a 25-12 final score.  

Notre Dame seemed to ramp up the aggression and play in set three of the match, however, getting an early lead against Miami, quickly setting the score to 7-3. Miami nearly caught up at 9-8, but the Irish kept the narrow lead. Miami eventually tied it at 17-17, but the rally didn’t last. Two kills from freshman outside hitter Avery Ross kept the Irish ahead on the scoreboard, and a combination of blocks and one kill each from graduate student Kaylyn Winkler and freshman Lucy Trump set up the Irish to stay alive. They won the 3rd set with an ace by junior libero Hattie Monson, with a final score of 25-20.

The Irish also won the fourth set in a close battle, with the final score going over the usual 25 points, ending in a 26-28 win for the Irish. The majority of the set had the Hurricanes in the lead, getting the scoreboard to 23-16, but the Irish blitzed their way to a seven-point streak and eventually tied Miami at 24-24. After the set rolled bast the 25-point threshold, Notre Dame secured the win with a final kill from Schrader. 

The game went on to a tough 5th set, with a tied score of 8-8. However, the Hurricanes prevailed, delivering a heartbreaking loss for the Irish, 15-13. The Notre Dame volleyball team now has a 5-7 season record, and an 0-2 ACC record to kick off their conference slate.

The Irish play No. 13 Georgia Tech at home on Friday, for their third game of the conference season.

Contact Lucia at laguzzi@nd.edu