Oct. 2, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Consistency has plagued the University of Notre Dame volleyball team all season and Wednesday night against Duke University was no exception as the Irish won the first set (25-18) before dropping the final three frames in a 3-1 (18-25, 25-22, 26-24, 25-17) loss to the Blue Devils at Purcell Pavilion.
“It’s tough for us right now,” said head coach Debbie Brown. “We lost our momentum from set one and didn’t capitalize on opportunities. We had game point in set three and if we go up 2-1 there instead of down 2-1 that makes a lot of difference. It’s a game of momentum and we just never got it back after set one. That was very disappointing.”
As has been the case throughout the season, the Irish chose a different aspect of the game to struggle in from the previous match. Tonight the Irish hit a respectable .277 and had 10.5 blocks, but had trouble digging the ball as they managed just 42, while allowing 66 kills from the Blue Devils, who finished the night hitting .319.
“We got out dug tonight,” said Brown. “I thought we had a lot of balls that we could have dug, should have dug, that could have kept rallies going.”
The Irish also had trouble with the serve, totaling just two aces to go along with six errors after the first set.
“I feel like after the first set we got very timid with serving and that allowed them to get in rotation on offense,” said Brown.
Making the night a long one for the Irish were three standouts on the Duke sidelines. Outside hitters Emily Sklar (18 kills, .343 A%) and Jeme Obeime (16 kills, .306 A%) combined for 34 kills and a .324 hitting percentage, while senior Chelsea Cook totaled a career-high 13 kills on 26 opportunities (.385 A%). Elsewhere, setter Maggie Deichmeister set her squad up all night long, assisting on 55 kills in addition to totaling four on her own. She also had eight digs and four blocks to conclude a solid all-around effort.
On the Irish side, junior Toni Alugbue reached 20 kills for the first time this season and sixth of career as she had 20 kills and seven digs. Fellow outside hitter Nicole Smith also reached double figures in kills with 12. The Franklin, Tenn., native tied for the match high with four blocks.
Notre Dame (6-8, 0-3 ACC) continues its homestand looking to snap a five-match losing streak at 7 p.m. Friday when it welcomes the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (11-3, 0-2 ACC) to Purcell Pavilion. The Irish are calling for fans to “White Out Wake” as free white t-shirts will be handed out before the match. Fans that can’t make the contest can follow online through Watch ND or gametracker. Links for both can be found on UND.com.
The Irish looked reinvigorated by being back in the friendly confines of Purcell Pavilion in set one as they showed great energy in a 25-18 win. After struggling in several areas last weekend in North Carolina, Notre Dame hit .395, totaled 16 kills and only one error and had three blocks and a service ace to top the Blue Devils in all five areas.
Blocking really helped the Irish early on, as a three-point Duke run was stopped cold by blocks from Maggie Brindock and Jeni Houser, a solo stuffer by Houser and a kill by the junior upped Notre Dame’s lead from 7-6 to 10-6. The Irish carried at least a four point lead for virtually the remainder of the set, taking a 15-11 score and making it 20-11 with solid front line play and a service ace from Alugbue. Notre Dame emphatically closed out the set with a kill from Brindock and a solo block from Alugbue.
Notre Dame let an opportunity to go up 2-0 slip away in set two as it was leading 21-18 before Duke went on a 7-1 run to end the frame. Taking over for the Blue Devils was the combo of Cook and Sklar. In the seven point run, Cook had three kills, Sklar had two and the duo combined for a block that gave their team its first lead of the set.
For the second consecutive set, the Blue Devils snatched victory from the jaws of defeat as they ran off the final three points of the set (26-24) after facing set point (24-23) to take a 2-1 lead in the match. The Irish fought hard to get to set point, overcoming a five point deficit at 19-14 behind the serving of Brindock. Two Alugbue kills and a co-block by the junior and senior Andie Olsen highlighted the run that knotted the score at 19. The squads traded scores until a kill by Smith and an attack error by Duke gave the Irish set point. An untimely service error by Sammie Brown ended the run and gave new life to the Blue Devils. They promptly claimed the final two points of the set to take a 2-1 lead.
The Blue Devils clinched the match in the fourth with three runs that broke up a close contest. The first run came after the Irish had tied the set at eight apiece after a Houser kill. Cook went back to serve after pounding home a kill and helped Duke extend its lead to 11-8. Later in the set, the Blue Devils took an 11-9 score and made it 14-9 on the strength of two kills from Alyse Whitaker. Finally, leading 17-13, Duke scored four points in a row to run the score to 21-13. The Blue Devils later clinched the set and match with a kill by Obeime and an attack error on the Irish.
— Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director