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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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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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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.

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Irish sweep Bulldog Brawl with wins over Central Michigan, Ohio

Notre Dame volleyball played two games this weekend at the Bulldog Brawl in Indianapolis, winning both to move to 5-5 on the season. In game 1 on Friday, the Irish beat Central Michigan in straight sets before downing Ohio in four sets on Saturday.

Game 1: Central Michigan Chippewas

The weekend got off to a strong start with a dominant first set against the Chippewas. The Irish had an early 7-0 run to take a commanding 12-3 lead early in the set. From there, they coasted to take the opening frame 25-12 winning the final point on a combined block from two grad students, middle blocker Kaylyn Winkler and outside hitter Clare Delaplane.

The second set seemed like a repeat of the first with Notre Dame taking a 12-6 lead and forcing a CMU timeout. After the break, the Chippewas came out battling to make it a two-point set at 14-12. Notre Dame was able to respond going on a run of their own and extending their lead, eventually sealing the 25-19 set victory.

In the third set, the Irish found themselves in an early 0-3 hole that was first deficit of the game. It didn’t last long though with freshman libero Maisie Alexander coming in to serve and leading the Irish on a 7-0 run to retake the lead. The team was able to protect that lead for the rest of the set, keeping the Chippewas at arm’s length to win 25-21 and take the match.

Sophomore setter Phyona Schrader led the way offensively for the Irish with 23 assists and five kills in the game. Freshman outside hitter Lucy Trump joined Winkler with 8 kills in the game to lead Notre Dame in that category.

Game 2: Ohio Bobcats

The second game saw the Irish face more adversity against the Bobcats, with a tight opening set that was tied at 9-9 as the teams traded blows. Notre Dame was able to separate thereafter, taking a 15-11 lead and forcing an Ohio timeout. The Bobcats rallied and tied the set at 22 before a Trump kill gave the Irish a lead they wouldn’t relinquish as they held on to win the set 25-23.

Notre Dame stormed out to an 8-1 lead in the second set but a service error from Schrader opened the door for the Bobcats who came back to tie it at 10. The set was closely contested throughout until Ohio’s Caroline Clippard broke the 21-21 tie to get serve back for her team and force the Irish to regroup. It seemed it might’ve worked as two kills from freshman outside hitter Avery Ross kept the Irish in it at 24-23. It wasn’t to be though as Ohio’s Olivia Margolies shut the door on Notre Dame to claim the second set for the Bobcats.

The third set was a similar story with a closely contested frame that saw the two teams tied at 17-17 before Notre Dame put their stamp on it. An 8-4 run from the Irish closed out the set with junior middle blocker Lauren Tarnoff hammering home the final point in a 25-21 set victory.

 The final set was close early on, but Notre Dame quickly put some distance between the two teams to finish off the game. The Irish finished the game on an 18-8 run, beating the Bobcats 25-15 in the final set. Trump and Tarnoff led the Irish in kills against Ohio with 13 and 10, respectively. Phyona Schrader rounded out a good performance with 35 assists and two service aces, including one in the deciding final set.

After a difficult start to head coach Salima Rockwell’s tenure, the Irish have turned it around winning four of their last five to get back to .500. The two games this weekend were Notre Dame’s final non-conference matchups ahead of their ACC opener on the road against Florida State on Friday.

Contact José at jsanch24@nd.edu