Oct. 11, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Looking to snap out of a six-match funk, the University of Notre Dame volleyball team heads to the Deep South this weekend to meet Clemson and Georgia Tech in Atlantic Coast Conference play.
Notre Dame (6-9, 0-4 ACC) plays the Tigers (8-8, 2-3 ACC) at 7 p.m. (ET) Friday in Clemson, S.C., before heading down I-85 to the capital of the Peach State to face off with Georgia Tech (7-10, 1-4 ACC) at 7 p.m. (ET) Saturday in Atlanta.
Both of this weekend's matches will be streamed live online by ESPN3. Links for ESPN3 as well as live stats are on UND.com.
After starting off the season 6-3, the Irish have hit a snag as of late as they have struggled with maintaining consistency in many aspects of the game. In the case of the last three matches a slow start was not a problem as Notre Dame won first sets against NC State, Duke and Wake Forest only to hit a wall later in the match and lose all three contests.
"In practice this week we looked at how we could further maximize some of the strengths we have," said head coach Debbie Brown. "We made some changes that will hopefully help us be more effective on offense and better at blocking."
Last weekend, the Irish lost to Duke and Wake Forest at Purcell Pavilion, including a heart-breaking 3-2 loss to the Demon Deacons where Notre Dame led 2-0 before Wake came all the way back to earn the hard-fought win.
In a losing effort, junior outside hitter Toni Alugbue had a pair of 20-plus kill matches as she finished with 41 kills (4.56 per set) and 22 digs (2.44 per set) for the weekend.
This weekend's opponents have had similar ups and downs as the Irish as both the Tigers and Yellow Jackets have stayed around the .500 mark for much of the season.
Despite a 2-3 record in league play, Clemson has shown improvement over the last couple of weeks. After a 3-1 win over Maryland Sept. 29, the Tigers lost close tilts to Miami (3-1) and then-No. 18 Florida State (3-2) last weekend before sweeping Georgia Tech Wednesday night.
Leading the charge all season for Clemson has been senior outside hitter Mo Simmons, who leads the ACC by a wide margin in kills (286) and kills per set (4.47) and has also totaled 11 service aces, 182 digs (2.84 per set) and 28 blocks.
The Tigers also have the top blocker in the league in junior middle blocker Beta Dumancic, who has a whopping 82 blocks (1.31 per set) to go along with 104 kills (1.62 per set).
"Mo (Simmons) is a very strong left side hitter and has had a great year so far," said Brown. "We are going to need to be able to block and play effective defense against them to slow down their left sides."
The Irish and Tigers have played three times, with Notre Dame holding a slim 2-1 lead. Notre Dame won the first meeting in 1996, 3-0, and then gained revenge on a 3-0 loss at Clemson in 1999 by sweeping the Tigers at home in 2000.
Georgia Tech, meanwhile, has struggled in conference play but does boast an impressive win over then-No. 18 Florida State (3-1) at the friendly confines of O'Keefe Gymnasium Oct. 4 that served notice to the rest of the league that anyone can win on any given night in the ACC.
Senior outside hitter Jennifer Percy paces the Yellow Jackets on offense as she has totaled 196 kills (3.27 per set) this season.
The Irish and Yellow Jackets have met just twice all-time, with each team winning a home match. Notre Dame earned victory in 1994, 3-0, at the Joyce Center, with Georgia Tech returning the favor, 3-2, in 1995.
"Within the ACC there is a lot of parody," said Brown. "It's like I said at the beginning of the season, every night in this league you have to come to play or you can get beat."
The Irish hope that a fresh week of practice has put them in a position to make some noise in their new league and allow them to continue their early match success and translate it into conference wins.
-- Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director