Aug. 30, 2015
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – After a pair of heartbreaking losses Saturday afternoon, the University of Notre Dame volleyball team displayed a winning mentality Sunday in the finale of the Blue Raider Bash, defeating Middle Tennessee State, 3-1 (18-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-20) to secure the first win of the Jim McLaughlin era.
“I told them the truth (after Saturday) and it wasn’t personal but we looked at the film and said that there’s got to be some changes in behavior,” said McLaughlin. “We had to do things differently and everyone had to overcome the adversity of making changes. It’s hard. But they were mature about it and they made the changes and there was a return on investment immediately. Hopefully it’s a lesson learned and we can take it and make more changes.
“We got our first win, which is big emotionally, but we can play a lot better and I think the team understands that. We aren’t jumping up and down because we won because we have got to play better ball. But I’m proud of them in how they handled it. They battled hard and that’s the most important thing.”
After MTSU scored eight of the final 10 points to claim the first set, 25-18, the Irish stepped it up over the final three frames. They ran away from the Blue Raiders in set two by taking an 11-10 advantage and turning it into a 19-12 margin.
Morningstar, a freshman from Wexford, Pennsylvania, came through big for the Irish in the match, claiming 10 kills and five blocks while hitting .474.
“She (Morningstar) brings a vibe,” said McLaughlin. “She will compete. I’ve been impressed with her competitiveness. That’s the most important thing you can have. That’s the gift she has and she’s got to help other people with it. She brought a positive energy and she was very aggressive all the way through. I really enjoy coaching her.”
Notre Dame closed out the match in the fourth set, building as much as a five-point advantage before watching Middle Tennessee trim the margin to just one at 20-19. However, a kill by sophomore Sam Fry and four attack errors by the Blue Raiders gave the Irish the victory.
In addition to Morningstar’s big match, junior co-captain Katie Higgins completed her spectacular tournament with 10 kills, two service aces, two digs and four blocks to earn all-tournament team honors.
In three matches, the Kearney, Nebraska native had 43 kills (.326 A%), 11 blocks and six service aces, all team highs.
MTSU actually produced more kills (50-45), assists (49-42), digs (54-46) and blocks (10.0-9.0) than Notre Dame, but had 12 more attack errors (29-17) despite attacking five less times (132-127).
Chelsea Ross had a match-high 21 kills for the Blue Raiders, but only hit .175 as she swung a whopping 57 times.
Notre Dame (1-2) heads to West Orange, New Jersey next weekend for the Seton Hall Classic where they’ll play Seton Hall, Hofstra and Temple.
Blue Raider Bash All-Tournament Team
Alexis Middlebrooks (CSU) – MVP
Grace Kauth (CSU)
Courtney Harnish (IU)
Amanda Anderson (IU)
Katie Scholten (BG)
Katie Higgins (ND)
Chelsea Ross (MT)
–Russell Dorn, Athletics Communications Assistant Director