After an up-and-down weekend that included the team winning easily Friday before dropping a close match Saturday, Notre Dame closed the Golden Dome Invitational with a dominant victory.
The Irish (5-3) swept Lipscomb (4-6) 3-0 Friday with an efficient offensive effort, but lost momentum as they fell to Portland (4-7) in five sets Saturday. The team rebounded Sunday, finishing off Valparaiso (7-4) 3-0 to claim the tournament title.
Irish coach Debbie Brown said the team was disappointed with its Saturday effort, but responded well Sunday against the Crusaders.
"We were really disappointed with [Saturday], so I feel like the team rebounded really well and came out with a strong purpose today," she said. "It wasn't easy today at all. Valpo is a really good team — really scrappy. We had to fight for every point."
Brown also said her team's win against Valparaiso bodes well for the young Irish as the season progresses.
"It was a good maturing process for us," Brown said. "Sometimes it's not going to be easy and you just have to persevere and work through it. I'm really proud of the way the team battled today."
Freshman middle blocker/outside hitter Jeni Houser took home tournament MVP honors, and joined fellow outside hitters freshman Toni Alugbue and sophomore Andrea McHugh on the all-tournament team. Brown said the vocal Houser brings a competitive fire to the squad.
"It's tremendous," Brown said of Houser's effort. "The season is relatively young still, so we're still learning the effect that each of the players have. She is a true competitor and she always wants the ball. I think she's doing a great job so far."
Though Notre Dame did compete hard over the weekend, the team's serving suffered at times and Brown said her team still has work to do.
"We need to work on [serving] a little bit more," Brown said. "We're putting pressure on some teams, but we're missing too many. There has to be a balance. You can't serve so that all of them are in — that's too easy. I think that we let teams off the hook a little bit this weekend when we'd have a tough serve on them, but then we would end up missing a serve or we would come out of a timeout and miss a serve."
In addition to some inconsistent serving, Brown said she was also disappointed in some of the sloppy plays over the weekend, particularly during Notre Dame's loss to Portland.
"There were some scramble plays where we just had poor communication and times when we had a relatively easy point or a free ball where we could have converted it and we didn't," she said. "Certainly, the opponents got their kills and their earned points, but I think that we hurt ourselves a decent amount as well. Those are the types of errors we have to eliminate."
The Irish will use a week of practice to fine-tune those errors as they prepare for this weekend's InnTower Invitational in Wisconsin.