Nov. 29, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Behind career days from seniors Sammie Brown, Andrea McHugh and Nicole Smith, the University of Notre Dame volleyball team improved to 13-1 all-time against former BIG EAST foe and current Atlantic Coast Conference opponent Boston College with a 3-1 (25-15, 25-23, 23-25, 25-20) victory on Black Friday at Purcell Pavilion.
“It was a very positive atmosphere today at Purcell,” said head coach Debbie Brown. “The crowd was awesome and I think that helped energize the team. When we came in for serve-and-pass today, the team was loose and talkative and you could tell they were ready to play. Today was a great way to start the weekend.”
“With it being our last two matches of the season I thought everyone on the team came out with the mentality that we weren’t going to lose and that they wouldn’t hold anything back individually,” said outside hitter Toni Alugbue. “No one wanted to have the season end and then look back on this weekend and think to themselves that they could have done more. Everyone just gave their all today. That was the mentality across the board and we were just having fun out there.”
Against the Eagles, Notre Dame turned in a spectacular performance on offense and defense as it totaled 64 kills and 73 digs on the day, which are both just off season highs for the team. Brown (17), McHugh (24) and Smith (7) all produced career-high dig performances, while Smith also had a match- and career-high 17 kills.
Helping Smith out on the offensive end was the junior dynamic duo of Alugbue (15) and Jeni Houser (15), who combined for 30 kills while hitting .300. Alugbue also had 11 digs and three blocks to record her team-leading 11th double-double of the season and Houser recorded a team-high five blocks. In the third set the Louisville, Ky., native became the 21st player in school history to hit the 1,000 kill mark for her career.
Setting up Alugbue, Houser and Smith for much of the match was senior Maggie Brindock, who totaled 47 assists, six digs, four kills and four blocks.
“Passing is very important in volleyball,” said Alugbue. “Usually the team that wins the serving-and-passing game wins the match. So when you pass to three that’s a perfect pass to the setter that makes it really hard for the blockers on the other side to create a double block. So that’s our goal is to pass three so each of our hitters have one-on-one situation so they can put the ball away easier. Andrea (McHugh) and I have worked really hard to get Maggie (Brindock) those type of passes so she can put up great sets to the hitters.”
Notre Dame jumped out to a 2-0 lead in large part to the serving of Brown, who helped the Irish go on runs of seven points or more in both sets. In the first frame, Notre Dame was up 6-5 when Brown was handed the ball, but had a set-changing 15-5 advantage before the Eagles could side out. Just one set later, Brown’s serving and the front-line play of Alugbue, Brindock and Houser took a 16-15 BC advantage and turned it into a 23-17 Irish lead.
“Sammie’s serving was great today and then we transitioned really well and got so many kills in that rotation,” said Brown. “That rotation was huge for us and put us over the top. Toni and Jeni hit really well and gave us steady play all day.”
“She is one of our better servers on the team and her serve in particular floats at you and then comes at your chest really fast so you have to make a last-minute decision on what you’re going to do with your hards,” said Alugbue. “I definitely think her serving gave us momentum and we took BC out of its rhythm and offense and when you take a team out of its offense it makes it easier for us to counterattack. Her serving was why we were able to have those leads and win today.”
With the win, the Irish swept the season series from the Eagles and also improved to 9-5 on the year at home including 5-4 in ACC play.
The Irish (13-17, 7-12 ACC) close out the 2013 season by welcoming in the Syracuse (15-16, 10-9 ACC) Orange at 2 p.m. Saturday for Senior Day. A pre-match ceremony and post-match video tribute will honor Brown, Brindock, McHugh, Andie Olsen and Smith.
-- Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director