Aug. 27, 2016
By Michael Scholl
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The Notre Dame volleyball team is off to its best start in five years after securing a 3-0 victory over Western Michigan to win the Golden Dome Invitational.
Sam Fry (Cincinnati, Ohio/Ursuline) was a familiar face for the Irish, recording 10 kills in the Western Michigan win to give her 25 for the three matches this weekend, but second year head coach Jim McLaughlin also received major contributions from a pair of newcomers in setter Caroline Holt (Bloomington, Ill./Central Catholic/Loyola-Chicago) and freshman outside hitter Jemma Yeadon (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island).
The Irish offense, which recorded 128 kills in nine sets over the weekend, saw Holt provide the assist on 105 points to average 11.67 helpers per set and earn Golden Dome Invitational Most Valuable Player honors. Yeadon made her collegiate debut in Saturday’s second match against Cleveland State, recording 10 kills in the win over the Vikings before adding six in the night game against the Broncos.
Meg Morningstar (Wichita, Kan./Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic) led the team with 11 kills against Western, hitting .474. Ryann DeJarld (Chicago, Ill./McAuley) contributed 12 digs, sharing the team lead with Holt. The junior libero leads the team in digs after the weekend with 39, good for an average of 4.33 per set.
The Irish last opened the season 3-0 in 2011, sweeping the Shamrock Invitational. In winning all three matches in straight sets this weekend, Notre Dame has swept three consecutive matches for the first time since 2012. McLaughlin is pleased with the progress thus far, but knows his squad still has room to improve, especially with 20th-ranked Purdue among the field headed to South Bend for next weekend’s Shamrock Invitational.
“We still have to understand we’re not close to where we need to be,” McLaughlin said. “We have to fix stuff, and if we don’t, those habits stay with you. We have to form the right habits that give you a chance to be successful. That’s about how we’re thinking and how we’re preparing. The matches give training a little bit more meaning. I want us to train at a higher level that matches the intensity in games.”
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Holt earned MVP honors for the weekend and solidified her role in the finale. She recorded 37 assists, while adding 12 digs and converting both attack attempts for kills. The junior transfer finished the opening weekend with 105 assists and 32 digs.
“The transition has been great,” Holt said. “It helps that I came in the spring to learn how the system works, so this fall it is just starting to click. I’m starting to feel comfortable. It’s the first week, so obviously there’s going to be some bumps in the road, but we’re facing adversity well.”
THE TURNING POINT
The majority of the drama came in the second set, which featured 11 ties, six lead changes and took the Irish 29 points to clinch. With Notre Dame up 24-22, it thought the second set was over on a big block, but the hosts were called for an attack error. Western Michigan responded with two straight points to tie the match at 24. The teams traded points to a tie at 26 before Western Michigan’s Sydney LeMay recorded a kill to give the Broncos a set point. The Irish responded as Maddie Plumlee (Winona Lake, Ind./Saint Mary’s (N.C.)) recorded a kill, Kuhn drilled an ace and Yeadon recorded the final kill to give the Irish the set, 29-27, and a 2-0 lead.
On Holt’s role as setter…
“It just stabilizes the group. She’s still got to get better. She’s an unbelievable kid in many ways and she can be an unbelievable setter. Just getting the handwork in place, the footwork and the ball is going where she wants it to go more often. She has to maximize each player (on the court), know how to talk to them and when to talk to them. She’s got a good presence, the kids like her, she works hard and I love coaching her. I don’t think she knows how good she could be. She could be a great setter.”
On Yeadon’s play in her first two collegiate matches on Saturday…
“Jemma, for her first college matches, did some really good things. We’re asking an awful lot of her, but I think she can handle it.”
On preparing for next weekend's Shamrock Invitational, which includes No. 20 Purdue…
“It’s part of learning the lessons we have to learn and passing tests we have to pass to become the team we want to become. We’re trying every day to form an identity and I think we took a step forward today. It’s a totally different team. We’re more mature, we’re more familiar and playing hard. Wins are good, but we have to keep preparing.”
NOTES OF THE MATCH
- The Irish are off to their best start since 2011, when they also opened 3-0. That year, Notre Dame secured three victories to take the Shamrock Invitational over Eastern Michigan, Idaho and Butler.
- The win and Golden Dome Tournament title marks the first 3-0 run during a three-match tournament at home by the Irish since the 2013 Shamrock Invitational (Loyola-Chicago, Oakland & Auburn).
- The last time Notre Dame swept three consecutive matches was in 2012, with 3-0 victories at DePaul, at Georgetown and at Villanova.
- It marks the first time Notre Dame has swept three consecutive matches at the Joyce Center since 2007, when the Irish took 3-0 decisions from Rutgers, DePaul and Georgetown.
GOLDEN DOME INVITATIONAL RECAP
In the matinee, Cleveland State capped the tournament at 2-1 thanks to a 3-0 sweep over Seton Hall (25-23, 25-20, 25-21). Alexis Middlebrooks and Sydney Mast each had 10 kills to pace the Vikings. Seton Hall capped the tournament 0-3.
MVP - Caroline Holt, Notre Dame
Sam Fry, Notre Dame
Jemma Yeadon, Notre Dame
Olive Kofie, Western Michigan
Sydney LeMay, Western Michigan
Grace Kauth, Cleveland State
Alexis Middlebrooks, Cleveland State
Dani Schroeder, Seton Hall
For complete coverage of the tournament, visit Golden Dome Invitational Tournament Central.
The Irish remain at home for Labor Day Weekend as they play host to the Shamrock Invitational. No. 20 Purdue, Coastal Carolina and Howard will visit Purcell Pavilion for the weekend.
Action begins on Friday, Sept. 2, when the Bison and Boilermakers meet at 4:30 p.m., followed by the Irish and Chanticleers at 7 p.m.
Coastal and Purdue meet at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 3, followed by Notre Dame vs. Howard at 12:30 p.m. and Howard vs. Coastal Carolina at 4:30 p.m. Action concludes with the in-state rivalry between Notre Dame and Purdue at 7 p.m.
Tickets are available by visiting UND.com/BuyTickets.
Michael Scholl joined Fighting Irish Media as athletics communications assistant director in August 2016, coordinating efforts for the volleyball and baseball programs at his alma mater. The South Bend native earned a degree in political science from the College of Arts & Letters in 2009 before going on to work in athletics communications at Providence College, Vanderbilt and Cincinnati. He is currently pursuing a master's degree in sport administration at the University of Cincinnati.