Graduate student Nicole Smith had 13 kills and eight digs against Washington State.

Irish Can't Maintain Momentum Of First Set; Fall To Cougars, 3-1

Sept. 5, 2014

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Washington St. 3, Notre Dame 1Get Acrobat Reader

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame volleyball team came out inspired in its 2014 home opener against Washington State, taking the opening set, 25-23. However, the Irish couldn’t maintain the momentum, nor could they stop WSU’s Chelsey Bettinson (22 kills), as the Cougars won the final three sets to claim a 3-1 (23-25, 25-14, 25-21, 27-25) victory over the Irish in the nightcap of day one at the Golden Dome Invitational.

There were lots of positives in Notre Dame’s home opener as the Irish out-blocked the Cougars (4-1), 11.0 – 7.5, and got impressive play from freshman Sydney Kuhn, who led the home squad in kills (14) and hitting percentage (.382).

Nonetheless, the Irish fell to 0-3 due in large part to Bettinson’s impressive kill total that ended up being over a third of WSU’s team total for the match (60). Setting up the Cougars for virtually all their kills was setter Haley MacDonald, who finished with 48 assists on the night.

In addition to Kuhn’s 14 kills, graduate student Nicole Smith had 13 kills and eight digs and senior Jeni Houser tallied 11 kills, seven digs and four blocks. Freshman Natalie Johnson had her first double-digit dig total of her career (16), while junior Hanna Muzzonigro recorded the team’s first double-double of the year (31 assists, 16 digs) in claiming career highs in both categories.

For Kuhn, she pounded home the most kills for a freshman since Houser had 17 against Syracuse November 18, 2011.

The match featured 22 ties and 11 lead changes.

Notre Dame gets back in action at 3:30 p.m. Saturday when it meets Western Michigan. The Broncos defeated IUPUI, 3-1, Friday evening in their first match of the tournament. Admission is free for the pre-football appetizer and will also be live streamed on WatchND.


The Irish claimed their first set win of the season in the opening frame against the Cougars as they fought back time and time again to earn a hard-fought, 25-23, victory. Feeding off a new starting lineup and an energized crowd, Notre Dame jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead behind the serving of Muzzonigro and a couple of Washington State miscues.

Notre Dame increased its lead to 7-1 before an 8-2 Cougar run tied the frame at nine. Ties littered the middle of the set before Notre Dame claimed an 18-15 lead, and forced a WSU timeout, behind back-to-back kills from Kuhn and Fry. A service ace by WSU’s Shawna Lum tied the contest at 21, but Notre Dame wouldn’t be denied, as two kills by Houser, and a kill apiece from Smith and Higgins, finished off the feisty Cougars.

Several Irish student-athletes had strong opening frames including Kuhn, who had five kills and attacked at a .417 clip. Houser, Higgins and Vonderhaar also totaled two or more kills without an error. For the Cougars, outside hitter Kyra Holt had a set-high six kills on a remarkable 20 attack attempts.

The Cougars dominated the second set, never trailing in a convincing 25-14 victory that tied the contest at one-set apiece heading into the locker room. Just like the Irish did to them in the first, WSU opened up the frame with a 4-0 lead. It didn’t get much better from there for Notre Dame, as the Cougars claimed leads of 10-3, 20-11 and later 22-11. The Irish couldn’t get the lead back under 10 as a kill by Hailey Bethune ended the set and tied the match at one.

After hitting .304 in set one, the Irish were held to a -.161 attach percentage in the second frame. Kuhn had three more kills to lead Notre Dame, while Chelsey Bettinson hit .800 with four kills.

Washington State claimed its second set in a row as it led virtually throughout in a 25-21 victory. After trailing 5-1 early, Notre Dame tied the contest at six after a tandem block by Fry and Muzzonigro. However, the Cougars quickly regained the lead as they ran off five-straight points to pull in front 11-6. The Irish pulled to within two at 15-13, but couldn’t get any closer as WSU held a steady 4-5 point lead for much of the remainder of the set. Bettinson’s 11th kill of the match and sixth of the set gave WSU the 2-1 lead. Bettinson hit .556 for the frame to lead all players. For the Irish, Smith had a clean frame with four kills.

The Cougars finished off the Irish in a wild four frame that featured 13 ties and seven lead changes. Notre Dame held leads late at 21-19, 22-20 and 25-24, but couldn’t finish off WSU to force a deciding fifth set. Facing match point, Bettinson put down back-to-back kills to give her a whopping 11 for the set and put Washington State on the brink of victory. A service ace from Tani Stephens gave the Cougars the win. WSU put down a remarkable 20 kills in the fourth set despite an impressive six blocks from the Irish front row. After hitting .311 in the first set, Notre Dame didn’t get above .229 the rest of the match.

–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director