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Thursday, June 20, 2024
The Observer

Irish fall to Duke, rally to recover against North Carolina

Senior libero Hattie Monson intently watches play during Notre Dame's 3-2 defeat of Wake Forest at Purcell Pavilion on Oct. 14, 2023.

After a strong start to the 2023 season, Notre Dame volleyball faced a critical juncture last weekend. The Irish had been swept in matches against Louisville and NC State the weekend prior. It was the first time they had lost consecutive games all year, doubling their loss total for the season. Road matches with Duke and North Carolina, who each entered the weekend with winning records, put Notre Dame further to the test.

The road trip didn’t get off to a great start for the Irish, who fell in four sets against Duke to drop their third straight game. Duke has been daunting to beat inside of Cameron Indoor Stadium all season, improving to 7-2 at home with the victory. The Irish did start the match on a nice note, taking the first set 25-21. The set went back and forth, and Notre Dame did not take the lead for good until an attack error from Duke put the Irish ahead 19-18. Kills from sophomore outside hitter Avery Ross on the last two points put the set away.

However, the Blue Devils would take control of the match from there. The third set proved to be the turning point. It featured multiple extra points, and both teams had match-point opportunities. Down 28-27, the Blue Devils rattled off three straight points to take the set and the lead in the match.

Duke would close it out in the next set, snapping a two-match losing skid. Junior outside hitter Sydney Palazzolo led the Irish with 17 kills, while fellow transfer graduate student setter Nicole Drewnick paced the team with 35 assists. Senior libero Hattie Monson’s 19 digs also led the Irish, with Palazzolo also in double figures at 11.

Despite the loss, the Irish put their foot in the ground two days later against the Tar Heels. It certainly didn’t come easy. Notre Dame found themselves down 2-0 right away and put up just 17 points in the first set. But despite having lost 11 of their last 12 sets at that point, the Irish dug deep in a way they perhaps would not have been able to last season. Notre Dame dominated the next two sets. North Carolina managed just 28 points combined during that stretch, bringing the match even.

The Irish also controlled the decisive fifth set. Notre Dame took six of the final seven points, two coming on kills by freshman outside hitter Ava Lange. The deadly combination of Palazzolo and Drewnick struck again to close it out and bring Notre Dame’s losing streak to an end. Once again, Palazzolo, Drewnick and Monson led the team in kills, assists and digs, respectively. The Irish had a hit percentage of at least 64% in each of the final three sets, a huge key to their success.

Notre Dame returns to action at home in Purcell Pavilion this weekend for matches against Virginia and Pitt. The Irish face the Cavaliers at 6:30 p.m. Friday and the Panthers at 1 p.m. Sunday. Both matches are available to watch on ACC Network Extra.

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