Nov. 26, 2014
Pittsburgh @ Notre Dame
: Free / WatchND: Free
Friday, Nov. 28, 2014 – 4 p.m. (ET)
Records: Notre Dame (6–22, 3–14 ACC), Pitt (23–6, 11–5 ACC)
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame volleyball team wraps up its 2014 campaign the day after Thanksgiving with a 4 p.m. (ET) Friday match against former BIG EAST rival and current Atlantic Coast Conference foe Pittsburgh.
The match will cap off senior day, as the Irish honor six student-athletes – Toni Alugbue, Jeni Houser, Erin Klosterman, Kathleen Severyn, Nicole Smith and Meg Vonderhaar – who have spent their careers wearing the Notre Dame blue and gold.
Senior day activities are set to get underway at 3:52 p.m. (ET) at Purcell Pavilion. The match also marks the final “Free T-Shirt Friday” promotion of the season.
Notre Dame (6-22, 3-14 ACC) looks to close out the season on a positive note with a victory over the Panthers (23-6, 11-5 ACC). The Irish boast a 23-10 record all-time against Pitt, but were swept earlier this season on the road in Pittsburgh.
In that match, the Irish held a 20-15 lead in the first set, but couldn’t maintain the advantage, as the Panthers had 12 service aces and 42 kills on their way to the 3-0 win. The Irish hit .125 and only had 27 kills in the match, including eight in the second set and just four in the final frame.
Pitt is coming off wins over NC State (3-0) and Virginia (3-1) and is holding out hope for an NCAA Championship bid. With an RPI of 51, the Panthers sit fifth in the ACC and more than likely need to win out against Louisville (4 p.m. ET Wednesday) and the Irish to have a shot. Their resume shows a 3-2 win at then-No. 25 Duke, as well as close home five-set losses to then-No. 12 North Carolina and then-No. 4 Florida State. Other losses came on the road at Colorado (3-1) and Virginia Tech (3-1) and at home to Miami (3-0) and the Hokies again (3-1).
In ACC matches, Pitt is first in service aces per set (1.78) and second in assists per set (13.17), while sitting fourth in kills per set (13.80) and opponent attack percentage (.186). Individually, middle blocker Amanda Orchard is attacking at a .414 clip in conference, while libero Delaney Clesen is third in digs per set (4.48). Lindsey Zitzke (0.45) and Maria Genitsaridi (0.37) are first and third, respectively, in service aces per set.
Notre Dame struggled this past weekend against No. 7 North Carolina and NC State, as it was swept in both matches to push its record this season in three-set decisions to 0-13 (6-9 total in 4 & 5-set matches). After winning a spirited 3-2 decision against Louisville Nov. 9, the Irish have dropped four contests in a row including a heart-breaking, 3-2, loss at Wake Forest Nov. 14.
As has been the case all year, an incredibly young lineup played in both matches. Against the highly ranked and veteran Tar Heels, Notre Dame played six freshmen, two sophomores and four seniors, before putting six freshmen, one sophomore and four seniors on the floor against the Wolfpack. There were rotations against NC State where Severyn, the libero, was surrounded by five freshmen.
Injuries have also hurt the Irish throughout the course of the year. In addition to losing Alugbue, a 2012 honorable mention All-American, for the entire season with a preseason ACL injury, Notre Dame lost starters Nicole Smith for three matches (ankle), Severyn for one (illness), Katie Higgins for three (ankle) and Hanna Muzzonigro for six (hip/back) during different parts of the year. Higgins has missed three of the last four matches and most of a fourth with her injury, while Muzzonigro hasn’t played since a 3-2 loss to Georgia Tech on Halloween because of hers.
Carrying the bulk of the load offensively all season – but especially during ACC matches – for the Irish has been Houser, freshman Sam Fry and Smith, who all boast over 150 kills and average 2.3 kills per set or higher in league contests.
Houser will wrap up a spectacular career Friday, as she looks to become just the eighth player in program history to reach 1,300 kills for a career. She currently sits in 10th place with 1,291 and also is in the top 10 in seven other categories.
Fry, meanwhile, is moving up the 25-point, rally-scoring era season records list (2008-present) for total blocks. The middle blocker from Cincinnati, Ohio has 106 for the year, which puts her in fourth place and just one block away from moving into a tie for third place with Hilary Eppink (107, 2010).
Smith is putting the finishing touches on a solid two years (2013-14) that saw her rack up 486 kills after missing the 2011 season recovering from her third major knee operation.
Fans that can’t make it to Purcell Pavilion for the final time in 2014 can follow the match through WatchND’s free online video stream or by tracking live stats. Links for both are on UND.com.
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director