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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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Irish volleyball drop two in fruitless West Coast trip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aidan Thomas

Contact Aidan at athoma28@nd.edu

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After notching season’s first win, Irish volleyball travel to Long Beach State Tournament

The energy rose inside Purcell Pavillion Sunday afternoon as the clock neared 4 p.m. The Notre Dame volleyball team had lost their first two games of the season in fairly decisive fashion, but they were all even as they prepared for a fifth and decisive set against Milwaukee University. It would have been understandable if a young Irish team, and their new head coach Salima Rockwell, felt the pressure of the moment. But instead, Rockwell encouraged her team to embrace it.

“I live for fifth sets,” Rockwell told The Observer after the Irish closed out a 3-2 victory over the Panthers, her first win at Notre Dame. “(I told them) this is why you come here, this is why you play volleyball. So let’s rise to this.”

Rise they did. Notre Dame jumped out a 7-0 lead in set five and never trailed, winning the set 15-13 to secure Rockwell’s first victory on the final day of the 2022 Irish Invitational. It may not have been a perfect weekend, but Rockwell and the Irish learned a lot.

“Our team knows how to battle,” said Rockwell. “They can find ways to win. We’ve got to find a way to string wins together and not give up big runs. We’re a very aggressive serving team, and we can get teams out of system. They’re a joy to coach. We’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot to work on.”

They’ll have to do that work fast, as the Irish head out west to the Long Beach State Invitational this weekend. Their first two games of the tournament pit them against Boise State and host Long Beach State, two talented teams that are off to strong starts in 2022. The Boise State Broncos are 2-0 on the year, while the Long State Elbees won their first two games before dropping a tight fifth set 16-18 to No. 19 Oregon on Saturday. Both matches for the Irish will begin at 10 p.m. EST (7 p.m. PST) with the Boise State matchup Friday night and Long State Saturday.

Though they’re unranked, Boise State could be one of the most difficult matchups the Irish will have all season. The Broncos went 24-11 last season, winning the Mountain West Championship and making the NCAA Tournament. The Broncos took a pair of matchups against St. Mary’s to start 2022 by scores of 3-0 and 3-1, respectively. Outside hitter Lauren Ohlinger and middle blocker Paige Bartsch were both named to the preseason All-Mountain West team, with Bartsch selected as the conference’s preseason player of the year.

Long Beach State also has a new head coach in Tyler Hildebrand. The team was picked fourth in preseason Big West polling, with outside hitter Katie Kennedy and setter Zayna Mayer named to the conference’s preseason Coaches Team. Long Beach State began the year with victories over Oregon State and Portland State before their aforementioned loss to No. 19 Oregon.

Andrew McGuinness

Contact Andrew McGuinness at amcguinn@nd.edu.