Sept. 14, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Behind a career-high 22 digs from senior libero Andrea McHugh, the University of Notre Dame volleyball team rallied from a 1-0 deficit to take down the Oakland Golden Grizzlies, 3-1 (21-25, 26-24, 25-19, 25-20), Saturday afternoon in front of 1,405 fans at Purcell Pavilion.
McHugh, who switched from outside hitter to libero in the offseason, seemed to find her rhythm against the Golden Grizzlies, as she racked up her career-high total by averaging over five digs per set.
"I just have to have the mindset that I'm going to dig at everything," said McHugh. "I had that mindset in Europe and it hasn't necessarily carried over to the season yet. It's definitely something that needs to happen every match.
"I think that the first touch is so crucial to our offense. If we can get a good first pass then we can run our offense and get a kill. So I think it's really important for me to do my job and give my teammates a good first pass."
Despite struggling in the first two sets on offense, the Irish came back and hit .371 in set three and .298 in set four. A boatload of Irish performers put up solid stat lines led by double-doubles from junior outside hitter Toni Alugbue (15K, 11D) and senior setter Maggie Brindock (38A, 10D). Brindock also added four kills and a team-high four blocks. Elsewhere, junior middle blocker Jeni Houser had her usual productive game with 12 kills (.321 A%) and a team-high four blocks and senior right side hitter Sammie Brown just missed out on a double-double with nine kills and 11 digs. Junior defensive specialist Kathleen Severyn turned in a strong showing in the serving and passing game with 12 kills and a service ace.
The Irish (4-3) meet Auburn (9-1) at 7:30 p.m. in a match that will crown the Shamrock Invitational champion. Oakland and Loyola play at 5 p.m. to determine third place.
"We are excited about playing Auburn," said McHugh. "They have looked really good so far and will be good competition for us. We definitely have to our raise our level of play to be able to beat them."
As has been the case in other matches this season, the Irish struggled on the offensive end in set one, hitting just .062 as they committed seven attack errors, with only three coming from Oakland blocks. The Golden Grizzlies hit .344, with Amanda Baker totaling five kills in eight opportunities. The big turning point in the match came with the two squads tied at 11. A pair of kills by Oakland forced a Notre Dame timeout at 13-11. After the timeout, the Irish committed three attack errors out of four points to give Oakland a 17-11 lead. The Irish made a late run, scoring three points in a row to trim the lead to 24-21, but a kill by Cassie Pelloni ended the comeback threat.
Notre Dame opened the second set sloppily, as Oakland jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead. The Irish fought all the way back though, using an 8-1 run to tie the set at eight. From there the two squads battled back and forth, as the set totaled 11 tie scores and five lead changes. The Irish had a shot to win at 24-22, but a kill by Pelloni and a service ace by Melissa Deatsch tied the match at 24. Notre Dame, who blocked six shots in the second set, picked a great time to claim its sixth and final one, as Andie Olsen and Brown stuffed back Taylor Humm's shot to give the Irish a chance to serve for the set. An attack error on Oakland tied the match at one heading into the locker room.
The Irish put together their best set of the match in frame three, as they hit .371 to win 25-19 and take a 2-1 lead. Notre Dame looked efficient as it pounded home 17 kills in 35 opportunities. Meg Vonderhaar, Brown and Houser all had four kills as each hit .500 for the set. After a wild back-and-forth second set, the Irish handled the Golden Grizzlies with the lone tie coming at 12-12. Notre Dame proceeded to go on an 8-2 run to run its lead to 20-14. Oakland could get no closer than four points back after that, as Brown ended the set with a kill off a feed from Brindock.
Notre Dame closed out the match in set four with a 25-20 victory. Oakland looked in control for much of the set as it held a 15-11 lead midway through the set and held a lead as late as 18-17. At that point the Irish turned to Severyn to lead them back into the set. The Naperville, Ill., native served six straight points, highlighted by two kills by Alugbue and her one service ace of the match. After the Golden Grizzlies stopped the bleeding with a kill from Ciara Schultz, Alugbue pounded home two kills in the final three points to give the Irish the victory.
Shamrock Invitational Standings
1. Auburn: 2-0
-- Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director