Oct. 3, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – In arguably its best all-around performance of the season, the University of Notre Dame volleyball team hit .309 on offense and tallied 11 blocks and 63 digs on defense to take down Syracuse, 3-1 (25-11, 24-26, 25-21, 25-18), Friday night at Purcell Pavilion in front of 1,577 fans.
“I saw a team that was playing well together tonight,” said head coach Debbie Brown. “We had four players with double-digit kills and we hit over .300 percentage. All that is an indication that the offense is running well.”
Four players reached double figures in kills on the night, led by graduate student Nicole Smith’s 16. Smith also led the squad with a .448 attack percentage, as she totaled just three errors in 29 swings.
“Nicole made really smart shots tonight,” said Brown. “There were times where there were trouble spots and she hit a smart shot to keep it in play, sometimes getting kills from them. Offensively, she was really, really strong.”
In addition, Sydney Kuhn (13K), Jeni Houser (11K) and Katie Higgins (10K) recorded 10+ kills. Kuhn added 12 digs and three assists to complete the second double-double of her career, while Higgins, whose 10 kills were a career-high, hit .412 for the night and also added four blocks. Houser added eight digs and two blocks, while freshman Sam Fry registered eight kills and a team-high six blocks.
Distributing the ball effectively was junior Hanna Muzzonigro, who broke her career high for assists in a match (49) for the second contest in a row. She also chipped in four digs, three blocks and three kills.
“I thought the distribution from Hanna was really good in terms of the number of swings and the way she kept everyone on offense involved.
Lastly, freshman libero Natalie Johnson tied her season high in digs (17) for the second match in a row.
Notre Dame totaled 19 more kills, 14 more assists, two more service aces and 16 more digs than the Orange, while tying the talented blocking squad with 11 blocks.
Setter Gosia Wlaszczuk was downright brilliant in a losing effort for Syracuse, as she totaled 10 kills (.533 A%), 31 assists, five digs, two blocks and a service ace.
The Irish came out on fire in set one, as they led from beginning to end for a convincing 25-11 victory. Notre Dame hit .520 for the opening frame and limited the `Cuse offense to a -.036 attack percentage.
“Set one was really, really good and it was certainly beyond our expectations in terms of what we thought would happen,” said Brown. “We had strong execution in our serving and we sided out at over 80%. It was really good play to set the tone for the match.”
After a close 26-24 loss in set two where they failed to capitalize on a 23-21 lead, Notre Dame came right back out in set three ready to play. The Irish jumped out to a remarkable 18-5 lead, and then held on for a 25-21 victory.
“I love that even though we didn’t play that well in the second set, we came out in set three and reestablished ourselves.”
Notre Dame closed out the match with a 25-18 victory in set four, as it hit .366 with 17 kills and a 78% side-out percentage. Smith (6 kills) and Houser (5 kills, .833 A%) came through big for the Irish in the final frame.
“We had a phrase coming into tonight `getting in the hunt,’ that got the whole team in the right mindset after last weekend,” said Smith. “This was our first ACC home match and we definitely wanted to start a winning streak on our home court.
“The whole team was aggressive and working well together. We were each individually taking care of our jobs and supporting each other. It was a fun match to play in, we played our hearts out and it turned into a great team win.”
The Irish (4-10, 1-2 ACC) welcome in No. 25 Duke (11-3, 3-0 ACC) Sunday for a 1 p.m. match. Fans can follow the match through live stats and WatchND’s free online video stream. Links for both are on UND.com.
“Duke is better than Syracuse, but I do think Syracuse has a great block and we were even with them in blocks, so to hit that well against a team that blocks is really good. I think the difference with Duke is that its back-court defense will be better so it will dig some of those balls that Syracuse didn’t. For us to be patient with our hitting and not try to create shots that aren’t there will be crucial Sunday.”
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director