Nov. 20, 2014
NC State @ Notre Dame
: Free / WatchND: Free
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014 – 1 p.m. (ET)
Records: Notre Dame (6–20, 3–12 ACC), NC State (14–12, 3–11 ACC)
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – With only three matches remaining in the 2014 University of Notre Dame volleyball campaign, the Irish return to Purcell Pavilion this Friday and Sunday for their final multi-match weekend of the year.
Notre Dame (6-20, 3-12 ACC) opens the weekend with an 8 p.m. Friday match against No. 7 North Carolina (22-2, 13-1 ACC) before the NC State Wolfpack (14-12, 3-11) come calling at 1 p.m. Sunday. Fans can follow both matches against the Tobacco Road teams through WatchND’s free online video stream and/or live stats. Links for both are on UND.com and at the top of this preview.
The matches are just two of several sporting events on campus this weekend. Fans that come out to the women’s basketball game against Chattanooga at 5 p.m. Friday can remain in Purcell for the volleyball match against the ACC-leading Tar Heels. On Sunday, fans that show a Louisville football ticket stub can watch the match against the Wolfpack for free as well. Tickets will also be on sale for volleyball-only patrons before each match.
Entering the stretch run, the Irish have shown improvement over the last month even though the win-loss column isn’t a good indicator. After suffering five sweeps in its first seven ACC matches, Notre Dame has played in six five setters over its last eight league contests. The Irish averaged 4.6 sets per match during those eight, after averaging just 3.5 sets per match in the season’s first 18 contests.
While seasoned veterans Jeni Houser and Nicole Smith have upped their kills per set average during this eight-match stretch to lead the Irish, the Notre Dame youth have played a key role as well. All six freshmen have played in every match, with Sam Fry earning eight starts, Sydney Kuhn seven, Maddie Dilfer four and Maddie Plumlee and Jo Kremer one each. Meanwhile, Natalie Johnson started at libero in the first five matches and served as a defensive specialist in the last three.
Fry has been particularly impressive during the stretch, as she is averaging 2.19 kills and 0.97 blocks per set while hitting at a .295 clip and totaling a team-high 10 service aces.
No. 7 North Carolina will prove a mighty challenge to the Irish, as the Tar Heels have dominated teams all season. UNC has earned sweeps in 17 of their 22 wins and enter Friday night’s affair riding a 12-match winning streak. North Carolina’s lone two losses came at No. 13 Illinois and at No. 6 Florida State. Their last time out, the Tar Heels earned revenge on the Seminoles, as they beat FSU, 3-1, in Chapel Hill.
The Tar Heels are in the top four in the ACC in every major category except digs, but have been especially impressive at the net, as they lead the league in blocks (3.29 per set) and opponent hitting percentage (.156). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where these impressive numbers are coming from, as the tandem of Victoria McPherson (1.52) and Paige Neuenfeldt (1.51) sit first and second, respectively, in the ACC in blocks per set. Neuenfeldt is also sixth in attack percentage (.343).
On the back row, libero Ece Taner is first in the conference in service aces per set (0.41) and fourth in digs per set (4.30).
North Carolina leads the all-time series, 5-3, including earning sweeps against the Irish last season in a non-conference match as well as an ACC contest.
The Wolfpack opened the year with an impressive 12-1 mark, as they worked their way through a non-conference schedule filled with low-major opponents. Once NC State hit ACC play, however, it has struggled just like the Irish with its lone three wins coming against Syracuse, Boston College and Georgia Tech all at home.
Freshman middle blocker Kaitlyn Kearney has had a productive year for the Wolfpack, as she is hitting at a .330 clip and averages team-highs in kills (2.75) and blocks per set (1.21). She sits ninth in the ACC in blocks per set and is 10th in attack percentage.
State holds a slim 2-1 lead in the series after beating the Irish 3-1 last year in Raleigh.
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director