Graduate student Nicole Smith leads the Irish with 3.00 kills per set.

Volleyball Opens ACC Play At Miami And No. 6 Florida State

Sept. 26, 2014

Weekend NotesGet Acrobat Reader

Notre Dame at Miami
Live Stats
: Free / Video: $9.95
Friday, Sept. 26, 2014 – 7 p.m. (ET)
James L. Knight Complex
Records: Notre Dame (3-8, 0-0 ACC), Miami (7-4, 0-0 ACC)

Notre Dame at No. 6 Florida State
Live Stats
: Free
Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014 – 1 p.m. (ET)
Tully Gym
Records: Notre Dame (3-8, 0-0 ACC), Florida State (11-0, 0-0 ACC)

Facebook – NDVolleyball
Twitter – @NDVolleyball
Instagram – NDVBall
Text Alerts – Irish Alert! Text Messaging

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Fresh off its first winning weekend, the University of Notre Dame volleyball team opens Atlantic Coast Conference action in hostile territory this weekend, as the Irish play at Miami Friday (7 p.m.) and at No. 6 Florida State Sunday (1 p.m.).

Despite going 3-8 in non-conference action, the Irish appear to be well-prepared for ACC action after playing a daunting non-conference slate that featured three Big Ten foes that were all ranked in the AVCA top 15 at the time they played Notre Dame. In addition, the Irish also battled Big 12 opponent TCU, Pac 12 competitor Washington State and strong mid-major opponents in Northern Iowa and Saint Louis.

Notre Dame should find out how well the non-conference schedule prepared it for a stronger ACC than in 2013 this weekend, as the Irish are set to meet two of the ACC’s most talented squads in the Hurricanes and the Seminoles.

While Miami (7-4) does boast a 3-1 win over Missouri, the Hurricanes picked up the rest of their wins over low to mid-major programs. The `Canes have played a pair of common opponents in TCU (3-2 loss) and Wisconsin (3-0 loss), suffering the same fate as the Irish in both circumstances. Former BIG EAST rivals with Miami, Notre Dame boasts a 5-2 record all-time against the Coral Gables school. However, the two programs won one match each in the BIG EAST and have done the same in the ACC.

Last year, Notre Dame pulled off a 3-1 victory at Purcell Pavilion before suffering a sweep on the road. Preseason all-ACC performer Savanah Leaf leads this year’s Miami squad. Leaf, who was a standout for the `Canes just a year ago, is averaging 4.29 kills, 2.00 digs and 0.79 blocks per set and has almost doubled up the next closest teammate in kills (163 to 87). Fellow preseason all-ACC honoree Emani Sims is hitting .397 on the year and leads the Hurricanes with 1.18 blocks per set.

As a team, Miami averages 13.49 kills, 12.56 assists, 1.36 service aces, 13.21 digs and 2.49 blocks per set. Florida State (11-0) has been one of the hottest teams in the nation so far this year, as the Seminoles boast wins over four ranked opponents including an impressive 3-1 victory at No. 7 Nebraska in front of 8,569 fans in Lincoln, Nebraska. The `Noles also defeated No. 11 Florida, 3-2, at home and won two in a row from No. 21 Texas A&M in College Station, Texas (3-1, 3-0). In other solid efforts, FSU swept Iowa State on the road, beat Marquette in five sets and took down LSU in four.

Notre Dame trails the all-time series with FSU, 4-2, and was swept both times in its inaugural ACC season a year ago.

Florida State boasts three pre-season all-ACC standouts. Outside hitter Nicole Walch leads the team in kills (181 overall, 4.21 per set) and also averages 2.51 digs, 0.58 blocks and 0.33 service aces per set. Middle blocker Sarah Burrington is attacking at a team-high .389 clip and leads the squad with 1.34 blocks per set. Lastly, libero Katie Mosher averages 4.14 digs and 0.25 service aces per set. As a team, the Seminoles average 13.57 kills, 12.73 assists, 1.30 service aces, 12.84 digs and 2.75 blocks per set.

The Irish, meanwhile, are coming off their best weekend of the season, as they went 2-1 at the Purdue Active Ankle Challenge to claim second place. After a slow start in a 3-2 win over Morehead State, Notre Dame turned in its best match of the season in a 3-1 victory over Saint Louis, just hours after the Billikens beat No. 11 Purdue on its home floor in five sets. Notre Dame closed out the weekend with a tough 3-0 loss at the hands of the Boilermakers in front of 7,030 fans at Mackey Arena.

Since starting 0-5, the Irish have gone 3-3 in their last six matches, improving their numbers all around. In the last six matches, Notre Dame has been better in kills (12.96 – 11.44 per set), attack percentage (.233 – .125), assists (12.00 – 10.56 per set) and service aces (1.21 – 0.69 per set).Individually, the fantastic freshman foursome of middle blocker Sam Fry, outside hitter Sydney Kuhn, libero Natalie Johnson and setter Maddie Dilfer have played a huge role in the Irish improvement. Fry, who sits sixth in the ACC in blocks per set (1.31), leads the Irish in four blocking categories and is also second in points (119.0) and kills (84), third in service aces (6) and fourth in kills per set (2.15). Kuhn, who earned a spot on the all-tournament team at both home tournaments, is second in digs (75), third in kills (2.15) and digs per set (2.03) and tied for third in kills (81). Johnson leads the team in both dig categories and also service aces (8), while Dilfer in second in assists (166), assists per set (5.19), digs per set (2.28) and service aces (7) and third in digs (73).

Elsewhere, after a tough start to the year, senior preseason all-ACC performer Jeni Houser has come into her own, as she hitting .311 and averaging 3.21 kills per set over the last six matches. Meanwhile, in the middle, sophomore Katie Higgins has taken a starting middle spot and run with in recently, as she is hitting a team-best .348 and averaging 0.68 blocks per set in helping Notre Dame to its 3-3 record over the last two weeks.

For fans looking to follow both matches, live stats are available in addition to frequent updates on Notre Dame volleyball’s Twitter page (@NDVolleyball). Friday’s match will also be available through Canes TV for $9.95.

Fans are encouraged to follow the Irish on Facebook (/NDVolleyball) and Instagram (NDVBall) for behind-the-scenes coverage of the program on the road.

–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relation Director