Sep 7, 2013
NOTE: Check back Saturday for box score from Friday night's match against Bowling Green.
By Staci Gasser
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The University of Notre Dame volleyball team fed off the boisterous Irish crowd of 1,043 and won its 2013 home opener with dominance in the end.
The Fighting Irish beat the Bowling Green Falcons in Notre Dame's first match of the Golden Dome Invitational Friday, Sept. 6, at Purcell Pavilion in four sets (28-26, 20-25, 25-19, 25-13).
With both teams evenly matched coming into the game at 1-2 overall, Notre Dame fought back after a set two loss to seal the victory.
"It set two, we lost the serving and passing game, and if you lose that in volleyball, it's pretty hard to come back and win," junior outside hitter Toni Alugbue said. "We went back to the basics, knowing if we can serve tougher and pass consistently, and run our balls through the middle then we would score, and as you can see in set three and four, it worked and we came out with the win."
Good defense and kills by Alugbue, junior middle blocker Jeni Houser and senior middle blocker Andie Olsen helped the Irish retake the lead early in the third set. Then a kill by senior setter Maggie Brindock, a kill by Houser and a block by the pair got the fans on their feet and gave the Irish a six-point lead, the biggest lead they had all night.
Houser continued to makes kills from the outside and the Falcons couldn't catch up.
The Irish looked even more powerful in set four. Houser made a kill right off the bat that set the tone for the rest of the match. Notre Dame scored eight points before the Falcons could get two. The team as a whole clicked on the court and Alugbue and Houser had 10 combined kills in the final set.
"You couldn't stop [Houser] from the outside," head coach Debbie Brown said. "[Alugbue], same thing. She played with a lot of confidence. They played with a heavy ball and smart shots."
Alugbue recorded 14 kills and 11 digs, while Houser had 14 kills and five blocks. Brindock totaled 27 assists, five digs and three kills.
History may have also factored in with the win. The Irish have only lost one home opener in the 23 years Brown has been the head coach.
"There was such a great crowd tonight, especially the students," Brown said. "That helped create a true home court advantage."
"Our fans are great," Alugbue said. "There's a sense of comfort when we are at home. Just to see `Irish' across everyone's chest, it makes us feel more comfortable. The crowd was amazing, and I feel like we fed off them tonight."
Notre Dame next faces No. 22 Purdue at 6 p.m. Saturday. Purdue also sits at 1-2, but both losses came to ranked foes in then-No. 4 USC and then-No. 21 Western Kentucky.
"Purdue is really good all across the front row," Alugbue said. "We are going to have to remain consistent and win the serving and passing game. It's going to be a close match, but I think if we stay consistent with our serving and passing, we will be good to go."
The Irish will end the Golden Dome Invitational with a match against the Polish club team TAURON MKS Dąbrowa Górnicza at 2 p.m. Sunday. Dabrowa knocked off Purdue, 3-1, Friday night and recently lost to No. Penn State, 3-0, in three tight sets.
Fans that can't make the matches can watch a free online video stream at WatchND.TV or follow live stats at UND.com.