Sept. 11, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A raucous crowd left Purcell Pavilion happy Friday night after they watched the new-look University of Notre Dame volleyball team under the direction of national championship winning head coach Jim McLaughlin pull off a thrilling 3-1 (28-26, 24-26, 25-14, 25-16) victory over Southeastern Conference opponent Mississippi State in the nightcap of day one of the Golden Dome Invitational.
After a pair of season-opening road trips provided the young Irish plenty of learning opportunities but a 2-4 mark, the team was more than anxious to return to the friendly confines of Purcell Pavilion, a place that has seen the program win at a 75% clip since 1980.
“We had two pretty tough weekends on the road and each time we learned something new and got better as a team,” said outside hitter Haley Bonneval, the lone senior on the 2015 Irish squad. “It was great coming back to our home court and being able to play as a team and show everyone what Notre Dame volleyball has to offer this year.
“The crowd was so hyped and at no point did they not think we were going to win.”
From the get go the two squads battled it out, as eachof the first two sets took extra points to decide.
In the opening frame Notre Dame trailed by three at 21-18 and by two at 22-20, but battled back to tie the match at 22 on a service ace by sophomore Sydney Kuhn. The score remained tied at 23 before Notre Dame hit set point on an attack error by the Bulldogs. The Irish held set point at 25-24 and against at 26-25, but MSU sided-out each time. Knotted at 26, freshman Rebecca Nunge tallied one of her career-high 10 kills to give Notre Dame a 27-26 lead. A bad set by Mississippi State gave the Irish the 1-0 lead.
Mississippi State led throughout set two until the Irish tied the frame at 22 on a service ace by freshman libero Ryann DeJarld. Later in the set, the Irish stayed alive by tying the score at 24, but consecutive kills by Evie Grace Singleton and Chelsea Duhs tied the match at one entering the break.
The Irish controlled the final two sets, hitting .250 and .216, respectively, while the Bulldogs attacked at a -.133 and 0.49 clip, respectively. Both sets were close early before Notre Dame went on big runs late to close out the match.
“Going into this match no one had the thought of losing,” said Bonneval. “We had the mentality that we were going to win. I believe that’s the mentality that everyone had with every dig, every serve, every attack, every block. I think that helped everyone play loose. When we made a mistake we didn’t let that affect us, which was great for us since we are such a young team.”
In addition to Bonneval’s big night, DeJarld reached 20+ digs for the third time this season. The Chicago native totaled 23 to go along with two service aces.
Nunge totaled a career-high 10 kills and six blocks and Kuhn tied her career high with 15 digs to go along with nine kills. Sophomore defensive specialist Natalie Johnson totaled nine digs.
Eight of the 10 Irish players that saw action Friday night are either freshmen or sophomores.
The match featured 20 ties and six lead changes.
Notre Dame sided-out at a 63% clip (53-83), while the Bulldogs finished at 51% (52-101).
Notre Dame (3-4) wraps up the Golden Dome Invitational with a pair of matches against Eastern Kentucky (12:30 p.m. ET) and No. 1 Penn State (7 p.m. ET) Saturday.
Fans are encouraged to come out to Purcell for $3 tickets. There will be free giveaways throughout the day.
For those not able to make it out, live stats and free live video are available on UND.com.
Behind the scenes coverage of the Irish program can be found on Facebook (/NDVolleyball), Twitter (@NDVolleyball), Instagram (NDVBall) and the newly created Snapchat (@NDVolleyball).
–Russell Dorn, Athletics Communications Assistant Director