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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

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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

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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. 

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ND Rankings in the ACC

Notre Dame Women’s Soccer 

Notre Dame women’s soccer completed the 2021 season with an ACC conference record of 7-3, good for a fourth seed in the ACC tournament. The team was eliminated in the first round of conference tournament play to the fifth-seeded Clemson Tigers. The Fighting Irish were able to ascend further in the Women’s College Cup, losing out in the round of 16. 

This year the Irish landed sixth in the 2022 preseason ACC coaches poll. An impressive performance in the 2021 NCAAs, coupled with a hot 4-0 start to the 2022 season, lends hope that Irish could advance to the semifinals or even the finals of the ACC tournament this season. To get there, Notre Dame will have to wade through a stiff field of ACC competition such as 2021 Women’s College Cup champions Florida State and 2022 ACC women’s soccer preseason favorite Duke.

Notre Dame sophomore Korbin Albert, possibly the most dynamic attacking midfielders in the ACC, is one player to look out for this season for the Irish. Last season Albert was awarded third team all-ACC honors and racked up 12 goals. This ranked second nationally amongst Division I freshmen. In August, she was named to the 2022 women’s soccer preseason all-ACC team.

Notre Dame Men’s Soccer

Notre Dame men’s soccer won their first ever ACC title last year in an impressive run that included the defeat of Louisville on penalties in the quarterfinals and the shutout of Duke in the championship round. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish went on to fall to the Clemson Tigers on penalties in the semifinals of the 2022 Men’s College Cup. 

In the ACC preseason coaches poll this year, Notre Dame men’s soccer earned one first place vote. The team is predicted to finish third in the ACC’s coastal division. Just off their 2021 NCAA victory, the Clemson Tigers were selected as the 2022 preseason ACC men’s soccer favorite. This season the Fighting Irish will hope to overcome the replacement of their top-two goal scorers with a returning core of young contributors. Don’t let Notre Dame’s home opener loss have you fooled; the team fell to 1-3-1 last season before making their stunning post season run. Expect the Fighting Irish to make a final four appearance in ACC tournament among 2022’s conference competition.

Returning as one of the top goalkeepers in the country, junior Bryan Dowd will be the anchor of the Fighting Irish defense this year. A Notre Dame postseason legend, Dowd secured six straight shutouts over the ACC and NCAA tournaments last season. Dowd stands alone as the only goalkeeper on the 2022 ACC preseason watch list. 

Notre Dame Cross Country

Last fall, Notre Dame hosted the 2021 ACC Cross Country championships. The Fighting Irish men captured their second consecutive ACC championship last season and will hope to win their fourth team title in five years in 2022. The Notre Dame’s women’s cross country grabbed a fifth-place finish at the ACCs in 2021. In seven of the past eight seasons, the Fighting Irish women have placed in the top five at the ACC championships. At the 2021 NCAA division I Cross Country Championships, the men’s team finished ninth and the women’s team finished fifth. Notre Dame men’s coach Sean Carlson earned his second consecutive ACC Men’s Coach of the Year award in 2021.

This season the Fighting Irish will host two meets in September, including The National Catholic Invitation on September 16th. Bank on both the men’s and women’s teams being strong contenders for ACC champions and top five finishers nationally. The 2022 ACC championships will be held in late October at Charlottesville, VA where the Syracuse men and NC State women are perennial contenders. The 2022 NCAA Cross Country Championships will take place in November at the Greiner Family OSU Cross Country Course in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Keep an eye on senior Olivia Markezich this year as she comes off an All-American season in 2021 and an 11th place finish at the NCAA championship. All-American returners for the men include senior Jake Renfree and junior Joshua Methner.

Notre Dame Volleyball

Forget about 2021, Notre Dame volleyball is looking to transition this year under new head coach Salima Rockwell. A three-time All-American at Penn State, Rockwell has filled three assistant volleyball coaching since arriving in South Bend. The Fighting Irish landed ninth in ACC’s 2022 preseason volleyball coaches pool. Louisville, who received ten first-place votes in the coaches poll, and Pitt, who received five first-place votes, are expected to be top contenders this season in the ACC. Notre Dame finished eighth last season in the ACC and Fighting Irish fans should hope to see the team finish in the top half of the conference in 2022. An invitation to the NCAA Division I Volleyball Tournament this season would be a step in the right direction for the Fighting Irish.

A key returning player for Notre Dame is junior libero Hattie Monson. In the 2021-2022 season Monson played in all 103 sets for the Fighting Irish and led the team with 407 digs. Monson was honored as member the ACC All-Freshman team in 2020 and as a member of the ACC All-Academic team in 2020 and 2021. SMU transfer Kaylyn Winkler is another name to look out for this season for Notre Dame Volleyball. Winkler led the AAC with a .384 hit percentage in 2021 and led her team, the Mustangs, with 114 blocks. The Irish will also hope to see leaders emerge among the five freshmen welcomed to the team for the 2022 season.

Peter Breen

Contact Peter at pbreen2@nd.edu.

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Rockwell secures first home win against Milwaukee

The Notre Dame volleyball team opened their season this weekend with two consecutive losses. Their season opener against Texas Tech on Friday saw the Irish fall 3-1 before another loss, this time 3-0 against Mississippi State, the next day. However, the Irish then battled it out on Sunday against Milwaukee, where head coach Salima Rockwell scored her first Irish win. 

Texas Tech 

Even though the Irish ended up losing to Texas Tech, the squad of fresh faces still had something to be proud of. Freshman outside hitter Avery Ross led the Irish with 13 kills. Graduate student transfer middle blocker Kaylyn Winkler also notched six kills in her first game for the Irish. However, the fresh squad did not come out hard enough out of the gates, and the Irish trailed for most of the first set against the Raiders. Eventually, the Raiders were able to go on a 6-3 run to secure their 25-16 win in the first set. 

The second set started off with a 4-1 Irish lead. The Irish were able to maintain their lead the entire set. While the Raiders fought back — at one point narrowing the score to within one point — the Irish ultimately secured their first set win of the season (25-18). 

The luck of the Irish would not follow through the rest of the match. While the third match would see an even play from both the Irish and the Raiders, at one point even being tied 11-11, the Raiders eventually took the win, 25-17. 

The fourth match saw a similar fate. Although the Irish were able to stay with Texas Tech for the first half of the match, the Raiders eventually secured a substantial lead, winning the Irish out 25-19. 

Mississippi State

Only a day later, the Irish fell 3-0 to Mississippi State. The Bulldogs came out hot on the Irish and within the first set they had a 10-point lead on the Irish. However, the Irish did not give up, and after a 13-5 run they brought the score within two. The Bulldogs eventually won, 19-25.

The Irish did not allow the Bulldogs to start up again with their previous run. Rather, the teams stayed equal for the first set of points. The Irish at first appeared to be evenly matched. But this would quickly be disproven as the Bulldogs went on to an 11-point run. They won the second match 25-16. 

Again, the Irish started up the third set with even scoring, keeping it relatively tied up until the 10-10 mark. But the Bulldogs were able to go on two final runs, confirming their victory with a 25-18 final score. 

Milwaukee

It wasn’t until the third game of the weekend that the Irish finally found their groove. The first set started out with a Milwaukee point, but the Irish never allowed the Panthers to gain too much of a lead. Eventually, the Irish took the lead, 8-7. Although the Irish were in the lead for a majority of the set, the Panthers were never more than two points behind. This was until the Panthers gained the upper hand and took a 23-22 lead. The Panthers secured the win, 25-23.

The second set started out in a similar vein to the first. The Irish started out with the first point of the set, but just like the last one, the Panthers proved to be tough competition. For every point one team scored, the other followed suit quickly after. The Panthers then pulled their lead to 6-3, before the Irish filled the gap on a kill from freshman outside hitter Lucy Trump. 

However, the closed gap would quickly disappear as the Panthers went on an 8-1 run. This time, it was freshman setter Harmony Sample with a kill to stop Milwaukee. Quickly after, the Irish were able to close the gap and take the lead. Eventually, Notre Dame brought their lead to 18-23. Junior libero Hattie Monson was able to bring the Irish to 24, but it was Trump who delivered the set-winning kill. While the Panthers out-blocked the Irish 4-1, the Irish secured 15 to nine kills and had a .174 hit percentage compared to the Panthers’ .064. 

Again, this set saw equal talent between the two teams. Especially during the first half of the match, there was never a major lead on either side of the court. With an 11-11 tied set, the Irish eventually secured the lead, but not for long, as the Panthers quickly shifted it 12-12. The lead would continue to tie back and forth until a sneaky tip from sophomore setter Phyona Schrader, which tied it once again at 20-20. Eventually, Winkler delivered the set-winning point and the Irish finished 25-23. 

Set four again saw no clear lead off the bat. This was until the Irish went on a run for a 5-9 score, before the Panthers again returned the favor and took the lead back. The Panthers were then able to take control and push their lead by three, maintaining this small gap for a majority of the set. With the Irish having match-winning power, nerves were high, and an Irish error eventually allowed the Panthers to win 24-22 and move to a fifth and final set. The energy was palpable.

“That’s what I live for,” said Rockwell. “I live for fifth sets. I just said, ‘These are the moments, this is why you play. This is why you come here and this is why you play volleyball. So let’s just run this and put our foot on the gas and get after it. Let’s be the aggressor in this and see if we can come out and jump on it right away.’” 

And that is exactly what the Irish did. Freshman libero Maisie Alexander opened up the set with an ace, before the Irish would go on a 7-0 run. While the Panthers were able to score twice, a chance for a run was destroyed by a kill by Trump. 

Eventually, the Panthers were able to tighten the score 9-7, and Notre Dame called a timeout to try and ice Milwaukee. This appeared to work, as the next point went to the Irish after the Panthers’ serve went out of bounds. The Panthers were able to get the score to 13-14, but the Irish were determined to get a home win. Finally, the Irish won the set 15-13, and the match 3-2. 

“I learned that my team knows how to battle, they can find ways to win,” said Rockwell post-match. “We learned that we got some subs and we can be real strategic with what we are doing.” 

The team certainly proved their coach right; Trump led the Irish with 23 kills, followed by Ross with 18 and then Schrader and Winkler with 11 each. Monson led the Irish digs with 26 in total.

Many of the lead point scorers were freshmen or transfers, and while at first this was intimidating to Rockwell, after seeing her team together, this worry vanished. 

“The way we approach recruiting is not just about them as athletes, but them as people,” she said. “So it’s really important that when they come on visits, it feels right that it’s comfortable for the girls and that they fit in. So the culture is incredible.” 

Rockwell cites this as one of the reasons her team was successful today.

“They love each other, they want to play for one another and they play hard,” Rockwell said. 

The Irish now face a doubleheader in California against Long Beach State and Boise State. While the team is up for the challenge, there is a week of preparation ahead of them.

“When you schedule tough in the non-conference, you learn more about yourself,” Rockwell said. “We’re gonna start really digging into the film this weekend.” 

Even Rockwell is excited about the prospect of two intense road games.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to play Boise State and Long Beach State, both really good teams,” Rockwell said. “I’m just excited to go to California too!” 

The Irish are back on the road next weekend for the 2022 Long Beach State Tournament, where they play Boise State on Sept. 2 at 10 p.m., followed by Long Beach State on Sept. 3 at 10 p.m. Live stats will be available on the Notre Dame website. 

Olivia Schatz

Contact Olivia at oschatz@nd.edu