Sept. 27, 2013
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - In its first ever match as part of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the University of Notre Dame volleyball team attacked efficiently, but couldn't stop a formidable University of North Carolina offense that served a remarkable 13 aces and pounded home 50 kills in exactly 100 opportunities as the Irish fell to the No. 14 Tar Heels, 3-0 (25-19, 25-18, 25-22), Friday night at Carmichael Arena.
In looking at the box score, fans will notice that the Irish hit at a .262 clip, .034 higher than any other loss this season, and had four student-athletes hit over .300, but couldn't contain the UNC offense that hit .370, including .400 and .395 in the last two frames. Jovana Bjelic led the way for UNC with 16 kills while hitting .448 for the match.
The Irish (6-6, 0-1 ACC) also had trouble receiving Tar Heel serves as UNC had 13 aces, which is the most against a Notre Dame squad since Purdue's 13 on Sept. 18, 2002. Bjelic and Jordyn Schnabl each had four aces for the Tar Heels, who improved to 13-0 on the season, including 2-0 in the ACC.
"Serving was definitely the difference tonight," said head coach Debbie Brown. "Every other aspect of the match we played pretty well in, but I can't ever remember giving up 13 aces before, especially in three sets. We passed at a high level last weekend so we weren't expecting a performance like tonight. We are normally a solid serving and passing team, but tonight that area let us down."
When given the opportunity, the Irish attackers performed efficiently. Junior Jeni Houser led the Irish with nine kills and no errors in 13 opportunities (.692 A%). She was followed by senior Nicole Smith, who had eight kills in 19 chances (.316 A%), senior Sammie Brown's seven kills and no errors in 17 chances (.412 A%) and senior Andie Olsen's four kills in seven opportunities (.429 A%).
North Carolina won the first two sets by a combined 13 points, but saw the Irish scratch and claw in the third set to force eight ties and four lead changes. Notre Dame last led at 19-17, but gave up a remarkable three straight service aces to Heather Gearhart to give UNC a 20-19 lead. The Irish fought back, tying the score at 22 with a kill from Olsen. However, the Tar Heels closed out the set and match with three consecutive kills, two by Kayla Berringer and one by Bjelic.
"Sunday against NC State we just have to take care of the ball," said Brown. "It begins with passing. That was definitely the missing link tonight. We will get back in the gym Saturday and develop a good game plan for them."
Notre Dame closes out its first ACC weekend with a 2 p.m. Sunday showdown with the NC State Wolfpack. Fans can follow the match through gametracker or State's free online video stream. Links for both are on UND.com.
-- Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director