Irish Return Home Looking To Get Season Back On Track
October 2, 2013INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – After being road warriors for two consecutive weekends as it traveled from Kansas to North Carolina, the University of Notre Dame volleyball team returns to Purcell Pavilion at 7 p.m. Wednesday to begin a much needed home weekend with an Atlantic Coast Conference showdown with the Duke Blue Devils. The match will be the first ACC contest in arena history regardless of sport.
Notre Dame (6-7, 0-2 ACC) is in search of its first league win after losses to North Carolina and NC State last weekend, while Duke (11-2, 2-0 ACC) is making a run at earning a national ranking as it received 43 points in this week’s AVCA Coaches Poll, which puts the Blue Devils 29th.
“Duke is a really solid team with some good experience at key positions,” said head coach Debbie Brown. “They are smart with the ball and they play well together. All five hitters are attacking at a high percentage, especially their two outside hitters. They also have a really good senior libero that is talented at digging, passing and serving.”
The Blue Devils have started off the year on a strong note, sweeping opponents in nine of their 11 victories with their only setbacks coming to then-No. 9 Florida (3-0) and then-No. 4 Minnesota (3-0). Last weekend Duke swept league foes Virginia and Virginia Tech at home to start ACC play off on the right foot.
Sophomore Emily Sklar and junior Jeme Obeime have given the Blue Devils a strong one-two punch so far this season as they sit sixth and 10th, respectively, in the ACC in kills per set. Sklar has 143 kills and averages 3.62 per set, while Obeime has 137 kills and averages 3.34 per frame. Helping set these two standouts up are libero Ali McCurdy, who is fourth in the ACC with 4.56 digs per set, and setter Maggie Deichmeister, who is third in the league with 10.83 assists per set. McCurdy also has shown efficiency with the serve, as she is third in the league with 0.39 service aces per set.
Not surprisingly, the Blue Devils are fourth in hitting percentage (.258), first in kills (15.22 per set) and third in digs (15.56 per set) in the league.
The Irish enter the match looking to snap a four-match skid that has produced more questions than answers as Notre Dame looks for consistency. Against North Carolina Friday night, Notre Dame hit .262 as a team, but gave up 13 service aces in a 3-0 loss. In a 3-1 loss to NC State Sunday the Irish won the first set and hit .485, before hitting .022 for the remainder of the match.
“We’ve had some really good practices this week,” said Brown. “We are trying to get back in a good competitive mode by working on our offense, passing and serving and blocking defense.”
Fans arriving early for the match will receive commemorative rally towels to commemorate the first ACC home match, while fans that can’t make the match can follow it online through gametracker and Watch ND.
“I think being at home will help out a lot,” said Brown. “We are really comfortable on our home court and we want to do well in front of our great home fans.”
The Irish continue their homestand Friday night when Wake Forest comes to Purcell for a 7 p.m. match.