Notre Dame Defeats Syracuse 3-1 in Opening Match of BIG EAST Volleyball Championship


MILWAUKEE, Wis. - Fifth seed Notre Dame defeated fourth seed Syracuse 3-1 (25-20, 25-17, 21-25, 25-19) in the opening match of the BIG EAST Volleyball Championship on Friday at the Al McGuire Center, avenging a loss to the Orange earlier in the season. The Fighting Irish have moved on to the semifinal round of the BIG EAST Championship every year since joining the conference in 1995. Syracuse, who did not qualify for the championship last season, has not picked up a win in the tournament since 1999.
Freshman Jeni Houser and junior Hilary Eppink led the Irish with 17 kills and 12 kills, respectively. The Fighting Irish hit .317 for the match, including .409 in the second set. Houser notched a .533 hitting percentage in her first BIG EAST Championship. Syracuse got 13 kills from sophomore Lindsay McCabe, while senior Ashley Williams added 20 digs.
Notre Dame, who lost to Syracuse 3-1 on Nov. 13, claimed the first set 27-25 as Eppink led the team with five kills. McCabe along with Nicolette Serratore each had four kills for Syracuse in the set. Notre Dame held a 21-18 lead before the Orange battled back by scoring the next three points to tie the set at 21. With the set locked at 25, Notre Dame took the next two points and sealed the win with a kill by Eppink.
The Irish held the lead for the entire second frame, scoring the first six points to win the set 25-17. Notre Dame had a very balanced attack, with one player notching three kills and four others with two kills each.  As a team, Notre Dame hit at an impressive .409 clip. Sophomore Andrea McHugh aided the Irish efforts with six digs on the defensive side. The Orange were again led by McCabe who had four kills.
The Orange avoided the sweep in the third set, taking the frame by a score of 25-21. After Syracuse jumped out to a 9-3 lead, Notre Dame battled back to trail by only one point at 17-16. Andrea Fisher helped the Orange with four kills in the set while Noemie Lefebvre had three. Houser had 5 kills for the Irish as they totaled a .300 hitting percentage for the set.
The Irish clinched the match in the fourth set, with a 25-19 victory. Notre Dame built a five-point lead at 15-10 in the fourth set following back-to-back kills by Houser and McHugh. The team finished with a .361 hitting percentage as Houser provided six kills in the final set. With the victory, the squad moved on to its 17th straight BIG EAST Championship semifinal.
Notre Dame plays the winner of No. 1 seed Louisville and No. 8 seed Pittsburgh at 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. CT Saturday in the first of two semifinal matches. The Cardinals and Panthers play the 1:30 p.m.ET/12:30 p.m. CT quarterfinal match.