Oct. 31, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A fellow Atlantic Coast Conference member for just the 2013 season and an old BIG EAST foe invade Purcell Pavilion this weekend as the University of Notre Dame volleyball team returns home for a pair of mid-day matches against Maryland and Pittsburgh.
The Irish (8-13, 2-8 ACC) first welcome in Maryland (12-11, 4-7 ACC) for a 4 p.m. Friday contest. Notre Dame has never met the Terrapins, and the likelihood of the two teams playing again drops considerably after this season as the Terps are making their exit from the ACC to join the Big Ten in 2014.
Maryland has had an up-and-down season as it swept a pair of home tournaments during the non-conference schedule only to go 2-6 in its last eight ACC matches. The Terps do enter Friday’s match with some momentum, however, as they took down Pitt, 3-1, Wednesday night in College Park. Junior Ashleigh Crutcher had a monster night with 24 kills, 10 digs and four blocks to lead the Terps.
For the year, senior outside hitter Mary Cushman paces Maryland with 282 kills (3.36 per set) and is second on the team with 236 digs (2.81 per set). Sophomore Amy Dion (4.65 per set) and freshman Julia Anderson (5.58 per set) alternate at setter, while senior libero Sarah Harper paces the squad with 410 digs (4.82 per set).
Notre Dame will close out the weekend with long-time BIG EAST rival Pitt (12-12, 4-7 ACC) at 2 p.m. Sunday. The Irish and Panthers have met 31 times since 1984, including 18 times during the BIG EAST regular season. Notre Dame has controlled the series for the most part as it holds a 22-9 lead in the series. Included in the overall record are a 15-match winning streak from 1992-2002 and a current four-match winning streak since 2009.
Pitt has also had an up-and-down year as it won a tournament at Connecticut during the non-conference portion of the schedule and started off the ACC slate with a 3-0 mark, but has lost four in a row and seven of eight since Oct. 5.
Junior Jessica Wynn, who has 274 kills (2.98 per set), paces the Panthers. Junior Lindsey Zitzke (512 – 5.57 per set) and sophomore Jenna Jacobson (452 – 4.91 per set) split time at setter and lead the team in assists, while junior libero Delaney Clesen paces the squad in digs wit 363 (3.95 per set).
Last weekend, the Irish dropped a pair of road matches to Virginia Tech (3-1) and Virginia (3-1) to continue their season struggles. The Irish have had trouble in many areas of the game, as they are hitting .197 and averaging 12.07 kills per set on offense, and averaging 12.83 digs per set on defense. One of the few bright spots on the year has been blocking, as Notre Dame is ninth in the league with 2.44 per set.
“There’s no question that consistency has been our issue all season,” said head coach Debbie Brown. “Sometimes it’s set-to-set and sometimes it’s match-to-match. So it’s hard to say ‘let’s just fix this,’ because it’s been all over the board. There’s been some matches where we’ve been phenomenal blocking and not very good with generating kills, and we’ve had some matches where we’ve had a high number of kills and hit for a high percentage, but our defense and blocking hasn’t been good so our opponent has hit equally as high. We have been fluctuating back and forth with that.
“Our main focus this week has been generating kills. Even last week against Virginia we hit for a pretty good percentage, but we just didn’t have enough kills. So we aren’t earning enough points. You can’t depend on your opponent to make that many errors. So a huge focus for us has been on our offense, on taking smarter shots, covering our hitters – all those things that have made our efficiency go down and prevent us from having as many kills as we need to.”
Friday’s match will be streamed through WatchND.tv, while Sunday’s contest can be found on ESPN3 with Ryan Camden and Jimmy Moley on the call. Both matches can also be followed through gametracker and Twitter (@NDVolleyball).
Admission for Friday night’s match is free, while Sunday will offer fans a chance to get four tickets for only $10 total by mentioning the word “Irish” at the ticket window. There will also be a free post-match reception for all fans as well as the final Irish Spikers Clinic of the year.
-- Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director