Oct. 24, 2013
Live Stats: Free / Cavaliers Live: Paid
Sunday, October 27, 2013 - 1 p.m. (ET)
Records: Notre Dame (8-11, 2-6 ACC), Virginia (11-10, 4-5 ACC)
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Winners of two of its last three matches, the University of Notre Dame volleyball team looks to build some momentum this weekend as it heads to the Commonwealth of Virginia for Atlantic Coast Conference showdowns with Virginia Tech (7 p.m. Friday) and the University of Virginia (1 p.m. Sunday).
The Irish (8-11, 2-6 ACC) swept Georgia Tech on the road Oct. 12 before returning home to Purcell Pavilion and taking down first-place Miami, 3-1, Oct. 18 to pick up their first two wins of the conference season. On Sunday, then-No. 19 Florida State swept the Irish to close out the weekend, but Notre Dame head coach Debbie Brown feels like the team gained some confidence and momentum with the two straight victories.
“Those two wins helped tremendously,” said Brown. “When a team is in a losing streak it’s sometimes hard to break out of it, so that one win can really give a team the confidence it needs to push ahead. I think it was huge that we did it on the road in a gym that was really rowdy. It wasn’t an easy atmosphere to get a win in. Then we came back and did it against Miami, who at the time was tied for first in the league. So getting back-to-back wins like that did boost the confidence a lot. Those two matches were important for us going forward to help us gain the confidence to be successful.”
Leading the Irish in ACC play has been junior outside hitter Toni Alugbue, who has a team-high 91 kills and is third in digs with 60, while fellow junior Jeni Houser has 69 kills and leads the team in attack percentage (.302) and blocks (27). Senior setter Maggie Brindock is seventh in the league in assists per set (9.41) and is second on the team in digs (64).
For the Irish to have a chance at a pair of wins this weekend, they must improve on a league-worst .267 opponent attack percentage in ACC matches. Notre Dame is also struggling with the serve, as it averages a conference-worst 0.69 per set, and in digs per set (13.24), where the Irish are 13th out of 15 teams.
Up first for Notre Dame on the weekend are the Hokies (17-6, 5-4 ACC), who lost to the Cavaliers Wednesday night (3-1) at home. Virginia Tech has had a solid season thus far, which has been highlighted by a 12-2 non-conference mark.
The Hokies won the Middle Tennessee Invitational in impressive fashion with three sweeps in four matches. They also swept the Hokie Classic, took 3-of-4 at the Hokie Invitational and 2-of-3 at the Louisville Classic.
In ACC play, VT has feasted on bottom-tier teams Wake Forest, Maryland, Boston College and Syracuse, but also took down upper-tier team NC State at home. The Hokies are in the middle of a two-match slide with losses to then-No. 13 North Carolina, 3-2, and the Cavaliers.
Virginia Tech has been highly effective on offense this season as it leads the league with a .273 attack percentage. With such a high team hitting percentage, it’s no surprise that a pair of standouts would be at the top of the conference rankings. Senior middle blocker Victoria Hamsher paces the ACC with a .423 hitting percentage and has 200 kills on the year. Joining Hamsher in the top three is junior middle blocker Kathryn Caine, who is third in the league in hitting (.369) and second on the team in kills with 213. Setter Jordan Fish has assisted the duo all year as she is second in the league in assists per set (11.04). An above average serving team with 106 service aces on the year, the Hokies are paced by freshman Lindsey Owens, who averages 0.46 per set.
“Even last night in a loss to Virginia, Hamsher and Caine were still hitting at a high percentage,” said Brown. “They are very efficient, hit well off one foot, have good vision and mix up their shots. We want to limit them, but it’s been shown over and over again that they are very hard to stop. We need to incorporate some different blocking schemes in order to contain the others and try to limit those two as best we can.”
The two squads have met three times, with all three coming when the two teams competed in the BIG EAST. Notre Dame holds a slim 2-1 lead over the Hokies, bookending a road loss in 2002 with home wins in 2001 and 2003.
Following the match with Virginia Tech, Notre Dame heads to the university that Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father, primary author of the Declaration of Independence and President of the U.S. from 1801-1809 founded in 1819 for a matchup with the Cavaliers.
Virginia (11-10, 4-5 ACC) has had quite the up-and-down season as it swept two home tournaments only to go 1-5 in away tournaments during the non-conference slate. In ACC play, the Cavaliers haven’t been able to win multiple games in a row, but swept Wake Forest and bested Virginia Tech on the road in addition to winning five-set matches at Pittsburgh and at home against Boston College.
The Cavaliers boast one of the top attackers in the conference in junior outside hitter Tori Janowski, who is second in the league in kills (307) and fifth in kills per set (3.74). Right behind her is freshman outside hitter Haley Kole, who is third in the league in kills (293) and tied for sixth in kills per set (3.62). Janowski is also tied for fourth in the ACC in service aces with a 0.34 per set average. Assisting these two stars is the top setter in the league numbers wise in sophomore Lauren Fuller, who averages 11.16 assists per set. Backing up the front line on defense is senior libero Emily Rottman, who places fifth in the conference in digs per set (4.38).
In Wednesday night’s win over the Hokies, Kole had a remarkable 23 kills, Jasmine Burton pounded home 20 and Janowski totaled 15 as the Cavaliers had 71 for the match.
Notre Dame and UVA have only met once before, all the way back in 1986 when the Irish bested the home Cavaliers, 3-0.
Fans can follow both matches for free through live stats or pay for an online video stream. Links for live stats and the video stream can be found on UND.com and at the top of this story.
-- Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director