Junior Toni Alugbue earned a spot on the all-tournament team after totaling 35 kills and 22 digs over the weekend.

Irish Show Fighting Spirit; Bounce Back To Top USF In Five Sets

Aug 31, 2013

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MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — After a pair of losses to North Carolina and Middle Tennessee State that were bitterly disappointing to the players and coaches alike, the University of Notre Dame volleyball team bounced back in a big way Saturday night to top San Francisco in a grueling five sets (25-21, 27-25, 23-25, 20-25, 15-9) in the final match for both teams at the season-opening Blue Raider Bash.

“Our offense was much better against San Francisco than it was in the first two matches,” said head coach Debbie Brown. “We cut down on our unforced errors that really made it hard for us to stay in the first two matches. It was really good to see us settle down and get a win. I thought the team showed resiliency and a great will to win.”

Notre Dame struggled in many aspects of the game in the two losses, but showed marked improvement in many of those areas against San Francisco – most notably on offense. In losses to the Tar Heels and Blue Raiders, the Irish totaled 68 kills and hit .060. Against the Dons, the Irish pounded home 64 kills while hitting .260.

Playing a big role in Saturday night’s win was senior co-captain and setter Maggie Brindock, who put together an impressive all-around performance. Not only did the Rockwall, Texas native distribute 47 passes to her teammates that ended in kills, but she also totaled nine kills of her own. She also had eight digs, three blocks and two service aces. Brindock just missed out on her second career triple-double and hit .562 for the match, flirting with the school record for hitting percentage in a five-set match for much of the contest.

“Going into this tournament we had high hopes to go 3-0,” said Brindock. “We knew North Carolina was going to be a big opponent for us so losing to them was a big disappointment. Against Middle Tennessee State we came out hard but just couldn’t get it together. We knew we needed to turn it around and we did that tonight and it was an awesome feeling. We know we have a lot of work to do, but we got the pressure off by picking up a win heading into next weekend.”

Also getting back on track in the evening match was Notre Dame’s honorable mention All-Americans Toni Alugbue and Jeni Houser. The two combined for 25 kills against the Dons after totaling 32 in the previous two matches. Alugbue also added 22 digs as she earned a spot on the all-tournament team.

Notre Dame jumped ahead of San Francisco early, 2-0, and appeared poised for the sweep before the Dons fought back with a pair of set wins of their own. The fifth set belonged to the Irish, however, as they built a 14-6 lead behind a pair of service aces and held on for the thrilling five-set win.

The Irish open the home portion of their schedule next weekend when they welcome in Bowling Green, Purdue and the Polish club team Dabrowa for the first of two tournaments – the Golden Dome Invitational. Notre Dame opens the tournament with Bowling Green at 7 p.m. (ET) Friday before playing Purdue at 6 p.m. Saturday and Dabrowa at 2 p.m. Sunday. Fans can follow the entire tournament through WatchND.tv and live stats on UND.com.

RECAP FROM MATCH ONE: Middle Tennessee State 3, Notre Dame 1

Middle Tennessee State used a strong block to limit Notre Dame on offense as the Blue Raiders took down the Irish, 3-1 (23-25, 25-17, 25-21, 25-21), in the first-ever match between the two schools.

Led by an impressive front line that was as athletic as they were tall, MTSU sent back 13 Irish shots and altered several more. Rachel Shaughnessy (6-1) had 11 total blocks (2 solo, nine assisted), while Monet Marshall (6-1) and Chelsea Ross (5-11) had four blocks each.

The result was a hitting percentage of just .095 for the Irish, which is marginally better than the .011 from the night before against North Carolina. Notre Dame totaled 44 kills and 32 errors in 126 attempts.

Middle Tennessee State, meanwhile, had 54 kills and 25 errors as it hit .238 for the match. Ross turned in a big all-around match for the Blue Raiders, totaling a team-high 17 kills, while adding seven digs and two service aces to go along with her four blocks.

Bright spots from the Irish included five kills and a .714 hitting percentage from Meg Vonderhaar and a team-high four blocks in two sets of action from freshman Simmone Collins. Alugbue had a team-high 15 kills and just missed a double-double with nine digs. Nicole Smith added eight kills and Houser had seven to go along with a team-high two service aces and three blocks.

— Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director