Nov. 8, 2015
By Russell Dorn
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame volleyball team showed improvement in each set Sunday afternoon against former BIG EAST foe Pittsburgh but couldn’t stop a powerful Panther offense that powered home 51 kills to help lead the visitors to a 3-0 (25-19, 25-22, 25-23) sweep at Purcell Pavilion.
Pittsburgh finished the day with 51 kills on 129 swings (.233 A%). Notre Dame tallied 31 kills on 119 swings (.151 A%). The Irish won the blocking (14.5-9.0) and service ace (3-1) battle, but had 18 less digs (65-47) and 22 less assists (51-29).
The Irish couldn’t stop Pitt’s offense in set one, as the Panthers pounded home 20 kills and hit .390 for the opening frame. Opposite side hitter Kadi Kullerkann had nine kills alone in set one on 13 swings (.538 A%).
Notre Dame trimmed what was once a five-point Pitt lead to two at 21-19 on a solo block by sophomore outside hitter Sydney Kuhn. However, Kullerkann took over with back-to-back kills followed by an assisted block to give the Panthers set point almost singlehandedly. Middle blocker Jenna Potts and Maria Genitsaridi followed it up with another block to give Pitt a 1-0 lead.
Pitt posted 16 more kills in set two to take a 2-0 lead into the break. The Panthers jumped out to a big lead in the frame, holding seven-point advantages at multiple points in the set. Trailing 23-18, Notre Dame fought back, scoring five of the next six points to battle off three set points. However, with Pitt up two at 24-22, Genitsaridi powered home her fifth kill of the match to wrap up the second frame for the visitors.
Notre Dame fell behind early in set three, trailing by six at 20-14. The Irish didn’t give up though as they scored four points in a row highlighted by back-to-back blocks by Rebecca Nunge and Katie Higgins to trim the margin to 20-18. Later in the set Notre Dame trailed by one at 22-21 but Pitt answered with a kill by Kullerkann and solo block from Amanda Orchard to reach match point. The Irish scored two more points on a service error and Sam Fry kill, but one final kill from Kullerkann gave Pitt the sweep.
Kullerkann had six kills and hit .375 in the final frame. The Keila, Estonia native and University of Houston graduate transfer finished with a match-high 17 kills (.389 A%). Potts had nine kills on 12 swings (.750 A%) to go along with four blocks. Mariah Bell had 11 kills and 11 digs.
For Notre Dame, Nunge had eight kills (.381 A%) and five blocks while Kuhn finished with 10 kills, 11 digs and four blocks. Freshman libero Ryann DeJarld totaled 16 digs.
Notre Dame (6-20, 1-13 ACC) heads to the Sunshine State next weekend for matches against No. 17 Florida State (7 p.m. Friday) and Miami (1 p.m. Sunday). Sunday’s contest against the Hurricanes is scheduled for broadcast on ESPN3.
Russell Dorn, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2011 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame volleyball, rowing and baseball programs. A native of Greenwood, South Carolina, Dorn graduated from Furman University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in history before earning his master’s degree in sports communications from Georgia State University in 2011.