The University of Notre Dame volleyball team lost its fourth match of the season to a ranked opponent on Tuesday with a 3-1 loss to #16 Northern Iowa (18-0) in the Reynolds Motors Volleyball Classic at Bettendorf High School in Bettendorf, Iowa. The 19th-ranked Irish are now 12-4 on the season.

Malinda Goralski led the Notre Dame offense with 11 kills on .429 hitting, while Kristy Kreher added nine kills and seven digs. Senior co-captain Marcie Bomhack contributed seven kills and seven blocks in the losing effort.

Neither team enjoyed more than a two point lead in game one until Notre Dame was able to surge ahead 19-16 after a Goralski kill. Northern Iowa came back to cut the lead to one at 21-20, but another Goralski kill and an Irish block put the lead back to three points.

Goralski was not done yet, another Irish block by the senior middle and Kristy Kreher pushed the Irish ahead 28-26. A Panther attack error and an ace that just fell over the net from Janie Alderete on game point provided Notre Dame with a game-one victory and a 1-0 lead in the match.

Northern Iowa, determined to make the first game-one loss a distant memory, came out red-hot in game two. The Panthers jumped all over the Irish with three consecutive kills, combined with two Notre Dame ball handling errors to take a 7-1 lead. The NIU advantage would continue to build, peaking at 9-2 before Notre Dame would make a run.

Goralski smacked a kill down the middle, Alderete posted her second ace of the match and a kill from Kreher suddenly cut the Panther lead to 9-6.

The Irish momentum would be short-lived, however. Four consecutive Notre Dame attack errors, combined with a ball handling error and a Panther ace, allowed NIU to build an almost insurmountable 20-8 advantage. The Irish were simply unable to get any attacks through the Northern Iowa front line. The Panthers would post five blocks in game two, while NIU’s Kim Kester was all over the court with five kills.

Unable to recover from the Northern Iowa block and point-scoring surge, Notre Dame dropped game two 30-14 and the match was tied at 1-1.

For the Irish to turn the match back into their favor, they would have to start getting some kills to go down on the floor. After the Northern Iowa block explosion in game two, Notre Dame’s hitting percentage dropped to -.014 in the match.

Unfortunately, the trend continued early in game three. Northern Iowa put two more blocks on the board and, combined with an Irish block error, attack error and ball handling error, the Panthers surged into the lead at 9-2.

Bomhack stopped the streak momentarily with a kill and a solo block (her second of the match), but the Panther offense and defense was too tough to allow the Irish to get back into the game. Two kills, two aces and a block gave Northern Iowa an 18-5 lead that Notre Dame would be unable to overcome. The Panthers earned the game victory 30-16 to go ahead 2-1 in the match.

Trying to shake off the two middle-game losses, Notre Dame kept close to the Panthers early in game four. Each time the Panthers surged into a three-point lead, the Irish would cut it down to a single point but were unable to earn a tie score.

After composing another scoring streak to jump ahead 16-12, Northern Iowa never looked back. Notre Dame’s offense was unable to put a its own scoring string together and the Irish suffered their fourth loss of the season to a ranked team with a 30-23 game-four loss.

Notre Dame will be back in action in a week on Tuesday, Oct. 23, at Kentucky.