Notre Dame volleyball team rallies to beat Jackson

Friday, September 28, 2012
Notre Dame’s Miranda Fowler tips the ball over the net during the Bulldogs’ three-game win over host Jackson on Thursday. Notre Dame won 22-25, 25-9, 25-13. More photos at (ADAM VOGLER)

Things have mostly gone right for the Notre Dame volleyball team this season.

The Bulldogs dropped just one of their first 20 matches heading into Thursday night's matchup against Jackson, but not much went right at the end of Game 1 against the Indians.

Jackson scored the final seven points to win the opening game before Notre Dame rallied back for a 22-25, 25-9, 25-13 road victory.

"That's important because I know down the stretch we're going to have some games that challenge us, and they have to be able to get behind and still fight and not give up," Notre Dame coach Tara Stroup said. "And I felt like they did that. I was concerned after that first game to see if they'd get out there and really try to compete. The second game was a lot cleaner on our part."

Notre Dame led by as many as eight points in Game 1 and 22-18 before Jackson libero Sara Thompson served the next seven points, including two aces.

Jackson outside hitters Alison Skaggs, right, and Hailey Mouser dive for a ball during Thursday’s match against visting Notre Dame. The Bulldogs won 22-25, 25-9, 25-13. (ADAM VOGLER)

"Serving is a strength for us," Jackson coach Julie Brandmeyer said. "It always has been, and always is. We're willing to take risks when we need to take risks. We have a little serving routine. We have a serving procedure that we go through. We have different tempos of our serve. We serve zones, we serve players and we serve tough."

Jackson led 1-0, but did not take another lead until 23-22.

"We were behind that whole first set, but we weren't acting like it," Brandmeyer said. "We just kept going. We always play pretty well. We always play pretty decent when we play against Notre Dame, and Notre Dame does, too. It's a rival for the girls, and it's great."

Jackson aced Notre Dame five times in the opening game, and numerous times the Bulldogs were unable to return a serve or produce a quality attack from their serve receive.

"The passes weren't terrible," Stroup said. "They were just too far off the net. We want to set Miranda, and when those passes are behind her, it's almost impossible to set middle because it's such a bad angle."

Notre Dame wasn't able to set standout senior middle Miranda Fowler for much of the first game. Fowler recorded two kills and two aces before rotating out of the game with Notre Dame leading 19-15.

Jackson recorded it's final 10 points of the game using just three servers, so Fowler never rotated back to the front row.

"We got kind of stuck in the rotation where we would have Miranda and [outside hitter] Kelsey [Luster] both out of the game at the same time. The passing wasn't perfect and we were struggling to get our offense going, and then we're still adjusting to that missing player."

Notre Dame was without injured senior outside hitter Sarah Lawrence, while Jackson played without freshman outside hitter Autumn Reid.

Fowler recorded a kill on the first point of Game 2, and Notre Dame never trailed in the game.

Fowler finished with 15 kills on 21 attempts with no errors, giving her an exceptionally high .714 hitting percentage. Generally, any percentage over .300 is considered good. In volleyball, errors are subtracted from kills before that total is divided by total attacks to determine a player's hitting percentage.

"We just really didn't have an answer to the high two-ball in the middle," said Brandmeyer, referencing Folwer's favorite set Thursday night. "So offensively we just didn't have an answer for that."

There were obvious signs of annoyance on the sign of Notre Dame players as well as Stroup as the Bulldogs allowed Game 1 to slip away, but they were quickly erased to start Game 2.

"It was our mistakes in the first game that really hurt us, and so we just had to bring ourselves together as a team and play our game," Fowler said.

"We just need to make sure we're not frustrated. If the first pass [is off], we have to get the second one. We can't just keep going. She [Stroup] says this all the time. We can't have five in a row. We have to get the next one. We can't have the same mistake more than once."

Notre Dame improved to 18-1-1 while Jackson dropped to 8-11-2.

Luster, Myriah Bernard and Taylor Feeney all finished with six kills for Notre Dame. Setter Taylor Ward, who served six consecutive points to close Game 2 and six more in a row near the end of the match, added 22 assists and two aces.

Jackson was led by Melinna Craft with eight kills and three block. Chelsea Fowler had 10 assists, and Hailey Moused had nine digs and three aces.

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