Oct. 12, 2013
Outside and inside photos by: Danny Karnik - Georgia Tech Athletics
ATLANTA - The proverbial monkey has been lifted off the University of Notre Dame volleyball team’s back, as the Irish picked up the first ACC win in program history Friday night with a hard-fought and much-needed 3-0 sweep of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at O’Keefe Gymnasium to snap a seven-match losing streak.
“It (the win) was a long time coming,” said head coach Debbie Brown. “It was a hard-fought battle and it was not easy. The team showed incredible determination and you could tell that from the very first point. I think Georgia Tech is a really tough serving team and I thought our passing was exceptionally strong considering what a good serving team they are. Our blocking came back to life. We needed that, especially after last night when we blocked so poorly against Clemson … we will work hard to keep adding to these wins. It feels much, much better. I’m really happy with the team. I thought they played clutch.”
After a disappointing 3-0 sweep at Clemson Friday night, the Irish had less than 24 hours to drive to Atlanta and get ready for a match against the Yellow Jackets. The quick turnaround wasn’t an issue Saturday night as Notre Dame looked in sync throughout the contest and showed heart and determination in the final frame to rally from multiple deficits.
Against the Tigers, Notre Dame had only four blocks as Clemson hit .333. However, against GT, the Irish stuffed 11 Yellow Jacket attacks in holding the home team to a .160 attack percentage.
“We talked about blocking this morning and what it takes to win a set,” said junior Toni Alugbue, who tied for the team lead with four. “Coach Brown and coach (Robin) Davis made a goal for us of three blocks per set. We took that to heart and Andie (Olsen) really set the tempo early. It’s fun blocking so each person wanted to get a piece of it.”
The offense also looked greatly improved from the previous seven matches, as the squad hit .273 and .310 in the first two sets on their way to a 2-0 lead. Alugbue paced the Irish with 10 kills, while senior Nicole Smith had nine and Olsen six. All hit over .300 for the match, with Smith leading the team at .500.
“Passing definitely helped us on offense tonight,” said Alugbue. “When you get those three-option passes, it’s really easy for Maggie (Brindock) and Hanna (Muzzonigro) to put the ball in a good place for our hitters. I think the attackers saw the defense on the other side really well. We were just in rhythm. I give all the credit to our passing, because without that it’s really hard to run a smooth offense.”
“Like Toni (Alugbue) said, the passing really helped tonight and Maggie (Brindock) was making great decisions with the sets,” said Smith. “She helped her hitters get one-on-one blocks so we had more of an open net to hit on. It was definitely a team effort.”
Making the win all the more sweet was an incredible Irish crowd in attendance among the 1,032 that came to the match.
“The Notre Dame fans in attendance were awesome,” said Smith. “I was not expecting such a big crowd. I’m really glad they were there to share the win with us. They definitely brought up our energy the entire match.”
Notre Dame looks to continue its new-found momentum next week when it welcomes in Miami and No. 21 Florida State to Purcell Pavilion next weekend. The Irish and Hurricanes will do battle at 7 p.m. Friday before the Seminoles come calling at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Despite the three-set sweep, the Irish had to fight hard in every set to take down the pesky Yellow Jackets.
After struggling mightily on defense against Clemson Friday night, the Irish decided to have a block party in set one as they turned back five GT attacks in a 25-20 victory. The five blocks were one more than Notre Dame had against Clemson in three sets. Georgia Tech struggled to get around the Irish block as it totaled 10 errors on 41 attempts to hit just .122. Olsen had three assisted blocks to lead Notre Dame. On offense, the Yellow Jackets had no answer for Houser as she had five kills in eight opportunities to hit .625 for the frame.
Trailing 7-5 early, the Irish made a five-point run on the strength of two blocks and two GT errors to take a three point lead at 10-7. Later in the set, a kill and block by Houser and an attack error on the Yellow Jackets extended Notre Dame’s lead to 14-10. The Irish maintained their lead for the remainder of the set, and watched as three Georgia Tech attack errors gave them the victory.
Notre Dame overcame some last-set adversity to go up 2-0 on the Yellow Jackets as they rallied for a 26-24 win in set two. Leading 22-19 after a kill from Smith, the Irish looked in control of the set until an attack error and three consecutive kills gave the Yellow Jackets a 23-22 lead. After a timeout to regroup, Notre Dame answered quickly as Brown and Alugbue each pounded home kills to give the Irish set point. A Courtney Felinski kill tied the frame at 24, but Alugbue tallied her sixth kill of the set to give Notre Dame a 25-24 lead, and a GT attack error clinched the frame for the Irish.
The Irish continued their impressive show on offense, attacking at a .310 clip for the set as Smith and Alugbue each had six kills to help Notre Dame accumulate 18.
Notre Dame closed out the home team in set three, but not without expending maximum effort. Georgia Tech brought renewed energy out of the locker room and jumped out to a 5-1 lead. Notre Dame battled back to pull within one at 5-4 and again at 6-5. However, the Yellow Jackets went on another tear to claim a 12-7 lead. From there, the Irish righted the ship and went on a 9-1 run to take a 16-13 lead behind the serving of sophomore Hanna Muzzonigro. The two teams continued to battle back-and-forth, with the last third of the set proving to be especially exciting. The frame was tied at 17, at 18 and finally at 23 and saw one-point spreads at 19-18, 20-19, 23-22 and 24-23. Tied at 23, the Irish put an end to the match as Smith pounded home her final kill of the night and GT turned in its 24th attack error of the night.
Neither team had a strong set offensively as they totaled 10 blocks total, but Georgia Tech had five service errors that kept it from forcing a fourth set.
-- Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director