Sep 24, 2012, 4:24 PM EDT
The Notre Dame volleyball squad returned to South Bend Sunday evening with more than just two victories. Following trips to Cincinnati and Louisville to begin conference play, the Irish improved to 9-5 on the season and currently sit tied atop the BIG EAST standings with three other teams. Talk about making an early statement – Notre Dame returned home with the confidence and poise necessary to continue its run for a special season.
You could point at Friday’s win over Cincinnati and call it the most pivotal game of the season up until that point for a couple of reasons. Every team wants to capture that elusive first conference victory in its first attempt and set the stage for the remainder of the grueling schedule. Secondly, the Bearcats are the defending BIG EAST champions. Notre Dame needed Friday’s win to prove it could compete with anyone in the conference and the Irish did just that, coming from behind on two separate occasions to win a five-set shocker. The match ended following a Cincinnati red card which automatically awarded Notre Dame with the winning point after trailing 14-12 earlier in the set.
Sunday’s tilt with No. 10 Louisville was not to be outdone in terms of dramatic endings. The Irish quickly fell behind two sets to none on the road, which generally spells doom for any opposition. Time to panic, right? Not for this Notre Dame team, not after so many close encounters with highly ranked opponents already this season.
Unsurprisingly, sophomore Toni Alugbue led the comeback with her eighth double-double of the season that included 18 kills and 18 digs. The Irish rallied to take both the third and fourth sets, paving the way for an unforgettable fifth. Behind the clutch service of Sammie Brown, Notre Dame gained an early 10-2 advantage and eventually collected the final five points of the set to complete the come-from-behind win, 15-3.
“I was unbelievably impressed with our composure at the end of the fourth set and then I’m not sure if I have seen anything like set five before. It was a great team win for us,” said head coach Debbie Brown following the victory. “I am so proud of this team for capturing a signature win against a talented Louisville team on the road.”
The Irish have shown a flair for the dramatic thus far. If this past weekend’s results are any indication, this is just the beginning of a memorable season.
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