Sept. 29, 2013
RALEIGH, N.C. – Everything looked good for the University of Notre Dame volleyball team after a 25-22 first-set victory against NC State. The Irish had overcome four service errors to hit .485 for the frame and had gotten their two honorable mention All-Americans off to a good start as Jeni Houser and Toni Alugbue had a combined nine kills in 16 chances with no errors.
However, the match took a sudden turn as NC State stormed from behind to claim the next three sets, including a dominating 25-9 fourth set, to knock off the Irish, 3-1 (22-25, 25-18, 25-15, 25-9), Sunday afternoon at Reynolds Coliseum.
“It was a disappointing weekend,” said head coach Debbie Brown. “It was not at all the way we wanted to start ACC play. We’re committed as a team to turning things around and getting back in the win column.”
While the Irish won set one, NC State looked comfortable on the offensive end as well, hitting .297 for the frame behind eight kills in 10 opportunities from Dariyan Hopper. From there, the Wolfpack adjusted defensively and continued to pound the Notre Dame squad on offense, attacking at a .382 clip and totaling four blocks for the second frame as NC State won, 25-18. Leading the charge for State was Brie Merriwether, who turned in set highs of five kills and three blocks on her way to a 12-kill, five-block effort for the match.
NC State went on to hit .388 on the afternoon and had four student-athletes with double-figure kill totals. Hopper pounded home a match-high 17 and hit .640, Merriwether had 12 and hit .556, Alesha Wilson totaled 12 and hit .296 and Nikki Glass had 11 with no errors to hit .379. The Wolfpack totaled 17 more kills (58-41) and 12 less errors (23-11) in four less chances (125-121) than the Irish.
For the second consecutive match, the Irish had trouble receiving the opponent’s serve as NC State had seven aces on the afternoon two days after North Carolina had 13 in three sets Friday night. In comparison, Notre Dame managed just one on the day, a Maggie Brindock ace that tied the score at six in the third set.
After a promising first set on offense, the Irish went on to hit just .144 for the day, including .086 in the second, -0.83 in the third and 0.30 in the fourth. Alugbue finished with 12 kills and Nicole Smith totaled 10. Houser (9) and Sammie Brown (8) were the only other Irish performers to register more than one kill.
Despite the lopsided scores in the final three sets, the Irish did force eight ties in the third frame, including trailing by as little as two all the way to 17-15. However, behind the serving of Rachel Eppley, the Wolfpack ran off eight straight points to take the frame. Five of the eight points were attack errors by the Irish with only two coming from Wolfpack blocks. After the Irish scored a block by Simmone Collins and Smith to make the score 17-15 in the third, NC State went on a 33-9 run to close out the match.
Notre Dame looks to snap a four-match skid and win its first ACC contest at 7 p.m. Wednesday evening when the Duke Blue Devils invade Purcell Pavilion for a hump day tilt. Fans can follow the match online in two ways – gametracker or Notre Dame’s Watch ND platform that offers a free live online video broadcast.
Following the contest against the Blue Devils, Notre Dame welcomes in Wake Forest for a 7 p.m. match Friday.
— Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director