ATLANTA — The Notre Dame volleyball team overcame a furious Georgia Tech rally to earn a 3-2 victory on the road Sunday afternoon. After the Irish took the first two sets, the Yellow Jackets stormed back to tie the contest, 2-2. Notre Dame kept its composure in the final frame to earn the victory and improve to 9-5 overall and 3-1 in conference play.
Freshman Charley Niego paced the Irish attack with a career-high 23 kills in addition to 13 digs. Freshman Sydney Bent added 17 kills while junior Lauren Woodard posted 11 kills.
Freshman Zoe Nunez notched a career-high 64 assists through the five sets of play. It was the first time an Irish player collected 60-plus assists since Caroline Holt also reached 64 helpers in a 3-2 victory over Howard on September 3, 2016.
Senior Ryann DeJarld led the Irish defense with 22 digs, marking the eighth time this year she’s gone over the 20-dig mark.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The two sides battled to a 9-9 tie in the opening set before a 3-0 Irish run gave Notre Dame a 12-9 advantage. The Yellow Jackets responded with a 9-2 streak to grab an 18-14 lead. Rebecca Nunge spearheaded a 7-1 Irish run with two kills and two aces that put Notre Dame up 21-19. After the hosts rallied to tie the score, 23-23, the two teams traded points before a kill by Woodard and an attack error by the Yellow Jackets gave the Irish a 28-26 win.
In another thrilling stanza, the Irish reversed a 22-18 deficit to claim a 2-0 lead in the match.
The Irish and Yellow Jackets traded 4-0 runs to stand tied at nine points apiece to open the frame. The teams remained close until Georgia Tech pulled away from a 14-14 deadlock with an 8-4 streak to move ahead 22-18. A kill by Bent capped a four-point run from the Irish to even the set 22-22 and after the sides worked to a 25-all tie, a pair of attack errors by Georgia Tech gave Notre Dame a 27-25 comeback victory and a 2-0 advantage.
Notre Dame raced out to a 16-11 lead in the third set before Georgia Tech answered with an 11-2 run earn a 22-18 advantage. A kill by Niego brought the Irish within three at 23-20, but the Yellow Jackets managed to keep Notre Dame at bay for the 25-21 win.
After earning a 9-8 lead, Georgia Tech took control of the fourth set by claiming 11 of the next 14 points. The Irish cut the Yellow Jackets’ lead to 23-20 after a kill by Woodard, but that was the closest Notre Dame would get as the hosts took the frame, 25-22.
After the final stanza began in a 2-2 tie, the Irish led the rest of the way to earn the 15-12 win. Five of Niego’s career-high 23 kill buoyed Notre Dame in the winner-take-all frame before Nunge delivered the decisive kill to notch the victory.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Niego hit double digits in both kills and digs for the second time this weekend for the Irish and in three consecutive ACC contests. The freshman’s .288 hitting percentage this afternoon finished second for Notre Dame behind Meg Morningstar (.500).
Notre Dame returns home this weekend for a pair of ACC matches at Purcell Pavilion. The Irish take on Wake Forest on Friday at 7 p.m. ET before meeting Duke on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. Both matches will air on ACC Network Extra.