Nov. 20, 2015
By Russell Dorn
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – An incredibly young University of Notre Dame volleyball team that played only freshmen and sophomores took a step forward Friday night at Purcell Pavilion, as the Irish showed improvement on offense in a tough 3-1 (19-25, 26-24, 25-21, 25-22) setback against Georgia Tech in Atlantic Coast Conference action.
Just a month after the Yellow Jackets dominated the Irish in a 3-0 sweep in Atlanta, Notre Dame looked markedly better this go around, as they pounded home 55 kills and finished with a .249 attack percentage.
The 55 kills were the most by an Irish team in a four-set match this year (most since Oct. 9 for any match) and the .249 attack percentage was the highest by the team in ACC play and the best since hitting .313 in a 3-0 sweep of Ball State Sept. 18.
Kuhn set career highs in kills (16) and digs (20) to go along with five blocks. Fry had 12 kills, six blocks and five digs, and Morningstar posted 11 kills, no errors (.524 A%) and five blocks.
In her last three matches, Morningstar – a 6-2 product from Wexford, Pennsylvania – has 22 kills, no errors (.550 A%) and 15 blocks.
Despite all those positives, the Irish left Purcell frustrated after winning the first set and having set point in the second frame before the Yellow Jackets snatched the momentum and ran with it to the tune of three-straight set victories to improve to 18-11 (9-8 ACC) this season.
The Irish came out on fire in the opening set, as they hit .351 for the frame with 16 kills to just three errors. Kuhn (5K, 4D) and Maddie Plumlee (4K) combined for nine kills on 18 swings for a .500 attack percentage. Georgia Tech hit just .132 for the set with 13 kills.
A back-and-forth set early, Notre Dame took the lead for good at 10-9 on an attack error by the Yellow Jackets. Later in the set, Fry pounded home a big kill to give Notre Dame a 15-11 lead and force a Yellow Jacket timeout. The Irish extended their lead to 19-13 on a Fry solo block and put the set away with a kill from Morningstar and a Georgia Tech attack error.
The turning point of the match came in set two with the Irish up 23-21 and looking to take a 2-0 lead into the locker room. A critical service error gave the serve back to Georgia Tech and a Teegan Van Gunst kill tied the set at 23 to force a Notre Dame timeout. After GT had a service error of its own to give Notre Dame set point, Van Gunst pounded home back-to-back kills to snatch set point from the Irish. A Notre Dame attack error at 25-24 gave Georgia Tech the set win and all the momentum entering the break.
Georgia Tech had 20 kills in the second set alone to offset Notre Dame’s five blocks.
The Irish had a chance in the critical third set, as they trailed by just one at 18-17 with the serve. However, the Jackets proceeded to go on a 3-0 run to push the lead to 21-17. Later in the set T. Van Gunst added a kill to make it 24-19 before ultimately closing out the frame with another kill to put the final score at 25-21.
Notre Dame trailed by just two at 16-14 in set four, but Georgia Tech went on a 6-2 run to push the margin to six at 22-16. The Irish made a late run to get within two at 24-22, but Ashley Askin closed out the match with a kill to give Georgia Tech the victory.
T. Van Gunst was virtually unstoppable all night, as she posted 25 kills and just two errors on 52 swings (.442 A%) to go along with 15 digs, four blocks and a service ace to lead Georgia Tech.
Her sister Annika Van Gunst had 11 kills and seven digs, Lauren Pitz totaled eight kills (.318 A%), Askin had 13 kills, a match-high 27 digs and two service aces and libero London Ackermann had 21 digs. Setters Gabby Benda (22A, 11D) and Rebecca Martin (38A, 5D, 2SA) each made a mark in the 6-2 rotation the Yellow Jackets ran.
Georgia Tech’s attack percentage went up in each set, as the visitors improved from .132 to .255, .268 and finally .315.
In addition to Fry, Kuhn and Morningstar, Plumlee had eight kills, three blocks and two digs, sophomore setter Maddie Dilfer totaled her fifth double-double of the year with 44 assists and 10 digs, freshman libero Ryann DeJarld posted 18 digs and sophomore defensive specialist Natalie Johnson had 12 digs.
The back-and-forth match featured 26 ties and 13 lead changes.
Notre Dame (6-23, 1-16 ACC) closes out the home portion of the 2015 schedule at 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday against Clemson (6-23, 1-16 ACC). The Irish picked up their lone win in ACC play this year against the Tigers on the road October 9 in five sets.
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.