Nov. 1, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Extremely disappointed in its offensive production for much of the season, the University of Notre Dame volleyball team worked hard on that end of the court in practice this week and it paid off as four players totaled 10 or more kills and hit over .400 to lead the Irish to a thrilling 3-1 (21-25, 27-25, 25-21, 25-23) victory over the University of Maryland Friday afternoon at Purcell Pavilion in front of a season-high 1,861 fans.
Coming into the match against the Terrapins, the Irish were near the bottom of the Atlantic Coast Conference with a .197 attack percentage. After a productive week of practice though, Notre Dame’s offensive production skyrocketed as it hit .312, a season-high for ACC matches, and tallied 54 kills to help lead the Irish to victory.
“I do believe our work on offense this week paid off,” said head coach Debbie Brown. “We knew we had been struggling in that area, but tonight we got more kills per set and hit for a very high percentage.”
“We came together as a team tonight and did a much better job getting the offense going,” said junior Jeni Houser. “We dug and passed a lot better and were able to find some spots in their defense to attack.”
Seniors Andie Olsen (12K, .409A%) and Nicole Smith (10K, .400A%) and juniors Toni Alugbue (13K, .407A%) and Houser (11K, .400A%) all had double-digit kill totals and hit over .400 for the match to lead the Irish.
“To have four players with 10+ kills that all hit over .400 is truly amazing,” said Brown. “I can’t remember that ever happening during my time here. Maggie (Brindock) did a great job getting them the ball and they did a nice job finding holes in the defense. It was huge for us tonight that they couldn’t key in on one person. It was great we could spread it out and get good production from several players.”
Helping set the foursome up with shots all night was senior libero Andrea McHugh (15 digs) and Brindock (43 assists).
Usually a solid blocking team, the Irish got off to a slow start with only two blocks through the first two sets. However, they turned it around in set three, posting five crucial blocks that swung the momentum squarely in favor of the home team and helped get the Maryland offense off balance as it totaled 28 attack errors and 10 service errors on the night to help contribute to the loss.
Blocking the Terrapin offense all night was the duo of Olsen and Alugbue, who each totaled six blocks to lead the Irish.
“It’s so awesome in the locker room after a win,” said Brown. “It’s so nice to see everyone smile. I believe everyone can look at the contributions they made tonight and can be happy. We had a great week of practice and it paid off for us.”
For Maryland, junior Ashleigh Crutcher turned in a monster game with a match-high 21 kills. Elsewhere, sophomore Kelsey Hrebenach had 13 kills, senior Mary Cushman had 10 and junior Adreene Elliot also had 10.
With a three-match losing streak snapped, the Irish (9-13, 3-8 ACC) look to get a winning streak started when they play host to fellow ACC newcomer Pitt (12-12, 4-7 ACC) at 2 p.m. Sunday. Fans can follow along through gametracker or WatchND.
The Irish kill woes continued in set one against the Terps as they totaled just 12 kills to 16 for the opposition despite out-hitting Maryland, .226-.216. The Irish hung close for much of the early portion of the set, but the Terrapins went on a 4-0 run in the middle to go up 17-11. The run ended with back-to-back service aces from the Terps that were both misplays by the Irish. Notre Dame didn’t fold though as it trimmed the lead slowly, eventually cutting it to one at 21-20. However, an Alugbue kill was bookended by three kills from Maryland and an attack error by the Irish to end the set. Four different players for the Terrapins registered at least three kills, while Olsen had six for Notre Dame. Neither team had much luck at the nets on defense as Maryland registered the lone block of the set during its 4-0 run in the middle of the frame.
Notre Dame led from 1-0 all the way until 22-21, but needed a couple of late errors by the Terrapins to hold on and win a thrilling set two, 27-25. After Maryland went up 24-23, an untimely attack error for the Terps gave the Irish the serve with the score tied at 24. A solo block by Brindock gave Notre Dame set point, but a service error tied the set up at 25. With Maryland serving, Alugbue pounded home a kill off a pass from Brindock to give the Irish set point at 26-25 and an attack error on the Terps finished off the set and tied the match at one as the two teams entered the locker room for the break. Both squads thrived on offense with Maryland hitting .355 to go along with 16 kills and Notre Dame not far behind at .343 with 16 kills. The final kills total was four more than the first set. Notre Dame was led by Alugbue’s five with no errors.
Carrying the momentum earned from the previous set, the Irish overcame an early deficit behind a pair of solo blocks from Houser and Alugbue and two consecutive unforced attack errors from the Terps to take the lead and never look back on their way to a 25-21 victory. The big moment late in the match that helped secure victory was two service aces within three points by Kathleen Severyn that helped take a 17-16 lead and turn it into a 21-16 advantage. Severyn ended the night with three aces, which tied for the team season high this season. A blocking error on a Smith kill closed out the set. The Irish finally got their blocking game going as they totaled five on the set to none for the Terrapins. Maryland had more kills than the Irish (15-11), but had eight attack errors on the set, many coming at crucial points in the frame.
A back-and-forth set that featured 13 ties and five lead changes went the way of the Irish, 25-23, as Notre Dame secured its first win since a 3-1 win over Miami Oct. 18. Down early, 8-4, the Irish made a comeback behind the serving of senior Sammie Brown. Two blocks and two kills later, the Irish tied the set at nine. Later in the frame, the Irish were forced to call a timeout after Maryland scored two consecutive points to tie the set at 22. However, the Irish didn’t lose their poise as kills by Olsen and Houser gave Notre Dame match point. After a kill from Maryland’s Ashleigh Crutcher trimmed the margin to 24-23, Brown pounded home the match’s final kill to give the Irish the win. Notre Dame hit an impressive .382 in the final frame, by pounding home 15 kills and limiting itself to just two errors. The Irish also totaled four big blocks in the deciding frame.
— Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director