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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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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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Sports

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