Dec. 1, 2017
By Robby Hamman
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Notre Dame (22-10) could not overcome a hot Western Kentucky (31-3) squad in the first round of the NCAA Championship on Friday evening at Memorial Coliseum, losing by a final of 3-0. The NCAA Championship appearance was the first for the Irish since making the tourney in 2012.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Irish got off to a slow start on Friday, as the Hilltoppers jumped out to an early 7-0 lead. Notre Dame tried to fight back into the set, cutting the lead to four at 15-11. However, Western Kentucky would not let the Irish get any closer and took the first frame 25-16 to take an early 1-0 lead in the match.
Notre Dame trailed 7-3 early in the second stanza but won six of the next seven points to take a 9-8 lead. The two sides traded points to move the score to 11-11 but then the Hilltoppers reeled off seven straight to open up an 18-11 advantage. The lead was too much for the Irish to surmount, as the Hilltoppers won the second set 25-18 to lead the match 2-0.
For the third straight set Western Kentucky built an early lead at 17-7. Notre Dame refused to go quietly, as the team roared back to take 10 of the next 13 points to cut the advantage to three at 20-17. After Western Kentucky made the score 22-18, the Irish continued their comeback by claiming the next three points to make it a one-point set at 22-21. Despite cutting into the lead the Irish were never able to completely erase the deficit, as the Hilltoppers did just enough in the third to escape with a 25-22 win to end the match at 3-0.
HEAD COACH JIM MCLAUGHLIN’S TAKE
On what his group of seniors means to him bringing Notre Dame to its first tournament since 2012 Ã¢â‚¬Â¦
“Everything. They’ve become good volleyball players, but they’re great people. It’s fun to be around them. They’ve learned how to work and treat people right. They’re good teammates. They say and do things that make each other better. They represent our university at the highest degree in everything that they do. It’s fun being in the gym, as hard as it is. It’s hard what we do. It’s really neat to be around this group.”
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Senior Sydney Kuhn tied for the team lead in kills on the evening with 11 on 38 swings. The Wichita, Kansas, native also added six digs and two aces over the three sets of play.
STAT OF THE MATCH
The outing marked the last match for six Irish seniors. Kuhn, Sam Fry, Caroline Holt, Natalie Johnson, Maddie Plumlee and Taylor Zwickl all had a role in Notre Dame’s return to the NCAA Championship and the turnaround for the program.
NOTES OF THE MATCH
- The match marked Notre Dame’s 19th appearance in the NCAA Championship and first since 2012.
- Fry completes her career with 1,115 kills and 498 blocks.
- With 11 kills, Kuhn finishes her career with 1,040 digs, 950 kills, 193 blocks and 97 aces.
- Johnson accrued 1,166 digs and 118 aces over her four years at Notre Dame.
- In just two seasons Holt dished out 2,064 assists and added 398 digs and 99 blocks.
- Ryann DeJarld ends the season with a program record 747 digs.
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Robby Hamman joined Fighting Irish Media as athletics communications assistant director in September 2016, coordinating efforts for the volleyball and men’s lacrosse program. Hamman is a 2010 graduate of Bethel College, where he earned bachelor’s degrees in sport management and business administration and earned his master’s degree in business administration from Defiance College in 2013.