Volleyball beats Irish, falls to Cardinals on road

Junior Isabella D’Amico (10) sets up an opportunity for graduate senior Breland Morrissette (11). D’Amico totaled 45 assists to lead all players while Morrissette recorded 7 kills. // Photo courtesy of Tyler Rover GTAA

The Jackets have been on a blistering start in 2022, handling their ACC opponents to the tune of a 3-0 conference record and 9-2 overall record prior to this weekend. Coming off a hot weekend with wins over ACC opponents Wake Forest and Virginia Tech, they had a chance to continue that streak against Notre Dame and No. 2 Louisville. 

On Sept. 30, they faced off against Notre Dame, dominating in the first set. From the very first play, a dig by current sophomore and 2021 ACC All-Freshman honoree Bianca Bertolino, the team set a defensive tenacity that continued with a second dig by graduate senior Breland Morrissette and a powerful kill by Bertolino. The Jackets did not let up, jumping out to a 19-6 lead and recording 20 kills in the set. 

Following a dominant set, the Jackets looked to do more of the same in the second set. However, Notre Dame had other ideas and kept pace, erasing a six-point deficit to make it 20-18. The two teams then traded points until the score tied up at 22-22. Due to a great hit by Bertolino, the Jackets went up by one and rode the momentum to end the set on another devastating kill by Bertolino. 

The third set was another hard-fought frame, but Tech was more in control of this one despite poor efficiency and 16 kills by Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish played solid defense throughout and got within a one-point deficit at 13–12, but senior Julia Bergmann’s timely kills ultimately sent the Irish packing in three sets to earn their fourth straight sweep.

Bergmann ended the match with a team-leading 19 kills. Senior libero Paolo Pimentel had 19 digs, contributing to a team-total 63 digs that almost exceeded the previous two matches combined. From an offensive standpoint, the Jackets were impressive in both kills and assists. A huge part of this success stemmed from junior setter Isabella D’Amico, who had 45 assists on 101 attempts. 

Moving on to Louisville, the Jackets had a challenging first set, struggling offensively at first. However, Morrisette hit back-to-back kills at the halfway point of the set and kept the pace up on offense. An ace by junior Tamara Otene gave the Jackets a late burst to ultimately fuel a 25-22 win aided heavily by timely kills from senior Erin Moss. 

Unfortunately, the second set was all Louisville. The Cardinals’ Claire Chausse proved to be a problem for the Tech defense, recording a match-high of 16 kills, and it began to show in this set. Despite getting out to a 7-4 lead, the Jacket defense began to slip and never really recovered. Louisville took a 12-11 lead, scoring five straight. They ran away with the set, ending it at 25-14. 

The third set showed some defensive improvement, but Tech still was not able to keep up with the Louisville offense. Back-and-forth action helped keep the set close, but just as Tech tied it up at 16-16, the Cardinals then went on a four-point run. Tech then responded with a three-point run of their own, ending on a nice kill from Bergmann to make it 19-20. However, Louisville shut them down and closed the set at 25-21.

Finally, the fourth set continued the chess game being played between the Louisville offense and the Tech defense. Although the Jackets forced a 13-13 standstill, yet another four-point run from Louisville made it difficult for Tech to recover. From then on, the Jackets’ defense showed the same issues present in the second and third set, crumbling against the Louisville offense and giving way to a Louisville victory in both the set and the match. Moss led the team with 11 kills in the match, but ultimately the Jackets couldn’t overcome their errors. 

Sitting at 10–3, the Jackets currently sit at fourth in the ACC standings and are ranked No. 10 overall. 

If they can improve on their defensive issues next week against Virginia and Pitt, it could provide a boost from both a performance and standings perspective as Pitt currently holds a 4-0 record in the ACC. It remains to be seen if Tech can put a dent in that record and rise in the standings.