Final Set Momentum Helps BC Top Notre Dame

Two weeks ago, on Oct. 19, the women’s volleyball team travelled to Indiana to take on Notre Dame. The Eagles took the first two sets, only needing to win one more set in order to claim the match. They faltered, though, losing three straight sets and the entire match, and ended up going back to Chestnut Hill empty-handed.

Flash forward to yesterday, Nov. 2: Notre Dame is now in the Power Gym at Conte Forum, playing the Eagles in a noontime ACC matchup. Boston College starts the game with some of its best volleyball this season, with few errors, varied points of attack and well-positioned defense. But, come the third set, the Eagles slip. Notre Dame won the next two sets, capitalizing on BC errors, in what looked like a repeat of the same matchup two weeks ago.

The Eagles gathered some momentum though, and picked up where they left off in the second set. They blew past the Irish 15-6 in the final set.

BC head coach Chris Campbell likened that first Notre Dame match to a ghost that was following the team throughout the course of yesterday’s game.

“Part of exorcising that ghost is facing the same situation again and being able to handle it,” Campbell said of his team’s ability to win the game in five sets.

In the fifth set, the Eagles performed at a similar level as the first two sets. And despite their initial trailing of Notre Dame on the score line, they were in complete control of the first set.

Julia Topor ended this set with five kills, as her accuracy and power combined for deadly effect on the Irish defense. But, everyone on the court played her own part—Kam McLain and Anna Skold played excellently in the middle, blocking well and scoring a number of their own. Setter Kellie Barnum provided 11 assists, and one dump. The Irish did challenge the Eagles towards the end of the set, climbing back from a five-point deficit at 17-12, to a one-point difference at 21-20. Still, a few errors on the part of the Irish and some well orchestrated kills from Katty Workman and Sol Calvete saw the Eagles halt the Irish there, and they won 25-21.

The second set went much the same, but perhaps even more in the favor of BC. Calvete, Workman and Skold were the main offensive threats for BC. They managed to switch up points and varieties of attack, succeeding in finding holes in the Irish defense to tip or spike the ball into. A service violation on the part of the Irish saw the Eagles close out the set with a 25-18 lead.

Then came the faltering.

It appeared to be a different Eagles team than the one playing in the set prior, as they lost the same energy and urgency that they held prior. Inefficiency in blocking, a number of serving errors and an inability to control Notre Dame’s serves proved their downfall.

Calvete appeared as one of the bright spots for the Eagles, making big plays such as diving digs and well-placed spikes in spite of the Irish momentum shift.

The Eagles lost the third set 21-25 and the fourth 23-25.

The fifth set saw a BC performance that was energized and flawlessly executed. When confronted with the idea that the Eagles looked like a different team in the final set, Campbell spoke to his team’s mental strength.

“They’ve really internalized the idea of at the start of the set of having to restart,” he said.

McLain and Workman were both offensive and defensive forces, coming through with crucial blocks and kills.

Courtney Castle’s work in the backcourt saved the Eagles as well, with a crucial three digs and a long series of serves that kept the Eagles in control of momentum. McLain hit the final kill of the game, slamming it from the middle of the court with power that left the Irish helpless with a 15-6 final set score.

“We’ve been really concentrating on being able to maintain focus and just play within yourself,” Campbell said. “And they recovered a couple of times to do that in a number of sets, which was just fantastic … We get knocked out of our composure a little too easily, we still need to work on that. But they’re developing tools in how to get that back, and that’s what is important.”

Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Staff