Entering its final weekend of games, Boston College Volleyball had nothing to lose. The Eagles had yet to win a game, but they knew it would be an uphill battle if they wanted to beat No.5 Notre Dame (4-1). The Irish were sure to be motivated, as they were coming off their first loss of the season against No. 10 Pitt last weekend.
Notre Dame came out on fire, scoring the first four points of the set. Fighting Irish sophomore Caroline Meuth, a member of last year’s ACC All-Freshman Team, delivered an impressive kill to start the set. The Eagles responded with beautiful digs by freshman Anna Murphy and a kill by sophomore Silvia Ianeselli to generate their offense. Tied at 4-4, off-speed touches by Meuthe and Lindsey Miller left the Eagles diving on the floor and to bring Notre Dame up 6-5.
In a game of many back and forths, Miller and BC’s Clare Naughton both scored beautiful kills to bring the game to 7-7, but attack errors by BC’s offense and beautiful serves by the Fighting Irish’s Zoe Nunez led to a Notre Dame hot streak, bringing the score to 12-8.
The young but tough Eagles team did its best to shorten the lead, but Notre Dame’s Hannah Thompson delivered strategically placed hits, leaving BC’s players diving on the court and giving ND a 15-10 lead. After outnumbering the Eagles 13 to five in kills and running up a lead of 17-10, head coach Jason Kennedy called a timeout to halt their growing momentum. His efforts were unsuccessful, as the Notre Dame offense continued its streak, scoring back-to-back kills and bringing the score to 22-11.
The set looked as though it was just about to finish, but the scrappy and tough Eagles fought back. An impressive ace by Ianeselli and another kill by Naughton sent the Eagles on a 3-0 scoring binge. Promising freshman Grace Penn delivered another kill that cut the deficit to 23-15 in favor of the Irish. As they did in the Eagles’ game last Friday night against Pitt, the BC offense hung tight, bringing the score within seven at 23-17. Notre Dame’s solid offense led by Charley Niego closed up the first set at 25-17.
The Eagles entered into the second set looking to rebound after their first set loss. Despite a few offensive errors, they held close to the Irish at 4-3, with strong kills by Ianeselli, who distorted the ND defense. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Meuthe came alive for the Irish and delivered two strong kills, and Thompson was a force to be reckoned with, scoring her fourth kill of the match, helping bring Notre Dame to a 10-5 lead. Both BC and Notre Dame went on small runs, BC led by defensive powerhouse Gabby McCaa and ND led unsurprisingly by Meuthe. At 12-8 in favor of ND, Amaka Chukwujekwu sent a powerful blow to the ND defense. Despite her efforts, ND was up 16-12 midway through with the help of the powerful Meuthe and Miller duo.
Murphy played with discipline as she moved all over the court for the Eagles, racking up seven digs midway through the second. Kennedy said he was pleased with the promise Murphy showed throughout the game and impressed with the team’s all-out effort.
“I like that we were all in it,” he said. “I didn’t think we had one go-to player. We did a good job keeping everyone involved.”
A momentum-stopping kill by Aubrey Hamilton halted the Eagles’ 4-0 scoring run and brought the Irish up two. The more experienced Irish team took advantage of the younger Eagles as the set wore on, getting in their heads and going on their own 4-0 run to bring the score to 21-16. Naughton demonstrated again why she is a leader for her team with two smart plays and a commanding ace, bringing the Eagles within two at 21-19. A timeout by Notre Dame head coach Mike Johnson proved wise for the Irish, who went on a 3-0 run and brought themselves within one of a second-set victory, which they sealed minutes later.
Entering into the third set down 2-0, the Eagles looked to get on the scoreboard. Notre Dame went up 3-1 early through the help of Niego, but the scrappy BC team communicated well and tied the game at 3-3.
With the Irish up 8-5, Naughton and Murphy decided to take over. Naughton scored her 10th kill and Murphy racked up her 12th dig, tying the game at 9-9. Despite hanging with the Irish, BC began to falter due to Miller’s commanding offensive blows, which brought her team to a three-point lead at 16-13. BC’s inexperience started to show as the Irish went on a six-point run. Kennedy called a timeout to stop the streak and prevent another shutout, but Thompson rallied the Irish offense to 22-16.
Kennedy called another timeout, looking to build momentum for his team. As was the case in the previous two sets, the Eagles did not let the Irish close quickly. The Eagles went on a 6-0 run thanks to two back-to-back blocks by Chukwujekwu, tying the game at 22-22. But the Eagles’ efforts were not quite enough, as Meuthe secured a 25-23 third-set win for her team with yet another monstrous kill.
“The goal is to win,” Kennedy said. “We are not happy unless we win, but I think we played better than we have to this point.”
BC is a very young team—10 freshmen are on the roster—and normally this time of year would just be the start of the season. With that in mind, freshman players Penn and Murphy, along with many others, will likely provide a bright future for BC.
“Each set we got a little closer—17, 20, and 23,” Kennedy said. “If we get three points better each set, we only need to get to 25. I think each set we started to find more of a rhythm. I think we are settling into a lineup here at the end of the fall, which is good because that will get us going into the spring.”
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Staff