The Virginia Tech volleyball team captured its 18th win of the season against Notre Dame on Friday, following consecutive conference losses to North Carolina and Virginia.
The Hokies squeaked by the Irish, defeating them in four sets by a combined score of just 98-89.
Freshman outside hitter Lindsey Owens — averaging a conference-best .46 aces per set — led the way offensively with a season high 17 kills. She attributes her scoring prowess to the team effort on the Hokies’ side of the net.
“We came in with a different mindset overall as a team after the loss last week,” Owens said. “Everyone was able to take care of their individual job and that allowed me to do my job.”
Leading the assistance was Jordan Fish, who tallied 51 assists in the winning effort. Through her body of work, the junior setter increased her assist per set total to 11.1 — cracking the national top 30.
The distinction of being in the top 20 percent of the country’s Division I setters is important to Fish, however, she owes a lot of her success to the contributions from her teammates.
“It feels good and it’s a lot of hard work paying off,” Fish said. “When the defense plays well, I play well, and when I play well, the hitters play well.”
The Hokies received contributions from all over the place, including Kathryn Caine who equaled a career best with 16 kills in the win against the Irish. The junior credits her elevation in offensive production to increased concentration and fundamental execution.
“My main focus was to be smart when I swung,” Caine said. “I was just focusing on (raising) my elbow as high as it could go, attacking the seam and mainly making good decisions.”
With the win Tech now sits at fifth in the conference at 6-4, with a pivotal two-game conference road trip this weekend.
The Hokies will travel to Clemson for a Friday night matchup and continue on to Georgia Tech for a Sunday matinee. The Tigers and Yellow Jackets sit at nine and 14 respectively in the conference standings, but no one in maroon and orange is taking either opponent for granted.
The Hokies are especially aware of Clemson’s star senior outside hitter, Moneshia Simmons, who leads the conference in kills per set at an impressive 4.72.
“(Simmons) is just someone we’re going to have to try to contain rather than stopping,” said head coach Chris Riley. “Clemson is a good solid group, they play good defense, and it’s a tough place to play.”
These are two games that are desperately needed as the Hokies hold a slim lead, by a game or less, over four teams in the conference — including Clemson.
“Both games this weekend are must-win games,” Caine said. “We’re on track to make the tournament right now, but we can’t have any more bad losses like last week.”
Coach Riley sees things differently.
“Every team that’s ahead of us we still have to play again,” Riley said. “I wouldn’t say they’re must-win games, but obviously it helps us significantly by beating both of these teams.”
Clemson has several notable conference wins to its name, including a four set win against Maryland and a three-set win against Notre Dame. It took the Hokies five sets to beat the Terps and four sets to beat the Irish.
Georgia Tech, on the other hand, has had a miserable start to its conference season. In six out of 10 conference matchups, the Yellow Jackets have not managed to win a single set, getting shutout 3-0 each time. Despite the showing, however, Georgia Tech managed to notch a signature win against 18th ranked Florida State in a four set domination.
“In this league, anybody can beat anybody at any time,” Riley said. “If you look at the numbers, it looks like we should do well, but we still have to go play the games.”