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Sunday, April 14, 2024
The Observer

Irish head to Raleigh after first home loss to Louisville

Notre Dame volleyball players celebrate after a point during the game against Duke at the Purcell Pavilion on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022.

With a performance as crisp as the late-September breeze, No. 5 Louisville swept Notre Dame volleyball (25-12, 25-18, 25-16) at Purcell Pavilion on Wednesday night. The Cardinals improved to 12-1 and 3-0 in the ACC, extending their winning streak against the Irish to five. Meanwhile, Notre Dame suffered its first home loss since last November’s meeting with Louisville, dropping to 8-3 and 2-1 in conference play.

The Irish attack appeared overmatched from the start, posting a -.115 hitting percentage against Louisville’s .250 mark. As she did in both Louisville matches last year, sophomore outside hitter Lucy Trump paced Notre Dame. The Kentucky native posted seven kills, leading the Irish in that category for the first time this season. However, Notre Dame’s marquee outside hitters, junior Sydney Palazzolo and freshman Ava Lange, struggled to a combined -.297 hitting percentage on 37 attacks.

On the other side, Louisville middle blocker Phekran Kong enjoyed an outstanding night. The tallest starter on the court racked up a career-high 12 kills along with a season-high seven blocks. Beyond Kong’s work, Louisville put forth a balanced effort with Elle Glock contributing 30 assists and eight digs. But Notre Dame’s block made its presence known, accumulating 9.5 rejections to edge the Cards’ nine.

Cardinals take off in set one domination

Defeating the fifth-ranked team in America is tough. It’s even tougher when you fall behind 9-0 in the first set. But that’s exactly what Notre Dame did as Kong registered a rapid three kills. The Irish would score the following two points after Louisville’s opening streak, but a 6-2 Cardinal run made it 15-4 and forced a second Notre Dame timeout. 

After the break, Irish head coach Salima Rockwell’s team closed the gap to seven. However, as it did all night, Louisville finished the set brilliantly. Sparked by three consecutive Irish attack errors, the Cards closed on a 6-1 run to win 25-12. Kong provided Louisville’s 17th kill of the set to finish the Irish, who generated only one kill.

Irish hang tight, but Luper’s service run closes out set two

With 4.5 blocks and four Trump kills, Notre Dame improved significantly in the second set. Louisville also helped the matter with a messier overall receiving operation. Once again, the Cardinals opened the set well, constructing leads of 3-0 and 7-4. But three consecutive attack errors allowed the Irish to tie the score at seven. The set would remain close after that, with Notre Dame pulling ahead 15-13 at the media timeout.

The Irish lead held up briefly, but Louisville soon forced an 18-18 tie. Kong then recorded her seventh kill of the match, sending Charitie Luper to the Cardinal service line. As it turned out, she would never give up the serve. Luper’s ace capped a 7-0 Louisville run, wrapping up a tight second set with a statement from the visitors.

Louisville maintains cushion throughout match-ending third set

Regarding comfort level, Louisville’s third set fell precisely between its previous two. While the Cardinals never opened up a double-digit lead, they also never allowed the Irish within three points after it was 3-1. This time, Louisville jumped out to a 6-1 advantage, later extending it to 15-7.

Kills from Palazzolo and Trump would cut Notre Dame's deficit down to four. But Louisville responded with a 3-0 run to force an Irish timeout at 20-13. After an Anna DeBeer service ace moved the Cards to match point, a Palazzolo attack error ended the night. One more time, Louisville finished with authority, riding a 5-1 run to reach the 25th point.

Irish travel to Raleigh ahead of lengthy break

Notre Dame now prepares for another tight turnaround as a visit to NC State looms on Friday afternoon. After that match, the Irish will have played four games in an eight-day stretch. Notre Dame will have a week off post-Wolfpack and will not play again at home until Oct. 13.

After posting its best 12-game start in eight years, NC State fell to No. 13 Georgia Tech on Sunday. The Wolfpack, now 11-2 with a 1-1 start to conference play, defeated the Irish twice last November. One of the top serving teams in the ACC, NC State yields a pair of strong attackers in Jada Allen (.438 hitting percentage) and Ava Brizard (3.6 kills per set). 

Notre Dame will face the Wolfpack at 1 p.m. on Friday in William Neal Reynolds Coliseum. ACC Network Extra will carry the match.

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