When you play a service academy in any sport, there is a different level of respect. The NCAA Women’s Volleyball tournament first round play was no different. The Army brought their fire power to Omaha as well. Their philosophy of don’t give up was even in question in today’s match. The Army gave it’s all and the Fightin’ Irish had to earn a victory in Omaha. The Black Knights played only eight games this season. That’s thirteen less games than the Irish played. With the physicality of volleyball, that could help you or it can hurt you. Army experienced both on Wednesday afternoon.
Cover Photo by Mark Kuhlmann/NCAA Photos
Both teams out of the chute had some difficulties setting momentum up in the beginning. A slow start until Hattie Monson was able to put the Irish on a 4-0 run including an ACE. The Irish and the Black Nights exchanged kills to slow down the Irish momentum. The Irish gained some of that momentum back under Zoe Nunez to go up 20-17. Army battled back to tie the game 20-20 and the momentum shifted from there. The Fightin’ Irish had the Black Knights 23-21 with the serve in hand, but a ball handling error by Nunez, turned the ball and the Black Knights rallied the next four points to take a Set 1.
The second set started off the way the first set ended, Army with momentum. The Black Knights opened on a 4-0 run. Hattie Monson stopped the run and in a big way. Besides her second ACE of the day, Monson set the Irish on an 8-0 run before the attack error ended the run with the score 8-5. Hannah Thompson also managed an ACE in the second set to tie the set 13-13. Nunez served up so action as well and delivered another 4-0 run for the Irish to go up 17-13. The Black Knights got within one point and Head Coach Michael Johnson calls a timely Time Out. The momentum swung the Fightin’ Irish way, Nancy Kane serves another Irish ACE to close out the set 25-22. The Sets are even at 1-1.
The momentum has swung in the Irish Favor. A team with so much experience knows how to apply pressure at the right time. Nunez served up an ACE on the Irish first serve of the set. Both teams exchanged kills for the most part getting the score to 6-6. Monroe Olson gave the Irish some operating room as she served for three consecutive points to give the Irish a 9-6 lead. The Irish broke the Army’s serve to tie the game again at 9-9. Kiara Schmidt then delivered the Irish to four consecutive points to lead 13-9, forcing Army into a time out.
The Irish the cruised to a 17-10 lead under Monson’s serve. Charley Niego brought the sauce as the Irish built on there lead and wearing do their opponent. Delivering four points including another ACE to go up 23-16. After a Kill by Hannah Thompson to bring the score to 24-17, Nancy Kane delivered the the Set Point for a 25-17 match win. The Irish go up 2-1 in the best of five sets.
To open the fourth set Nunez delivered a blow to the Black Knights. Opening with an ACE to start the Irish scoring. The Irish were now going back to the way they like to play. A Kill by Meuth and Nunez set the Irish offense up to score three more points to go up 6-1. After swapping Kills, Thompson put the Irish on a 5-0 run, starting with an ACE for a 12-2 lead. The Irish defense and the offense put the game away from that point forward. Staying in control and focused on the end game. Nunez delivered another ACE on the Black Knights as well in the late portion of the set. The Fightin’ Irish win 25-11 and advance to play Oregon on Thursday.
The Wrap Up
The Irish servers really delivered on Wednesday afternoon. They served up a season high 10 ACES, three of them delivered by Nunez, two delivered by Thompson, and two by Niego. Assists, Nunez (30), Meuth (2) and Monson (1). Kills, Niego handed off a team high (12), Meuth delivered (10), and Aubrey Hamilton delivered (7). Digs, Niego (15), Monson (14), Nunez had (12). The Fightin’ Irish on defense defended at the net the net very well, as they delivered 17 Blocks against the Army offense, Thompson (8), Lauren Wenzel (8), and Meuth (5).
The Irish will face the 10 Seed Oregon Ducks at noon EST tomorrow and streamed on ESPN 3.
Cheers and Go Irish!☘🏐🌩