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Published: Thursday, 9/20/2012

Notre Dame rolls to victory over Oregon Clay

Eagles keep pace in TRAC with 2 key league matches left

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Notre Dame's Madeline Smyth, who had 8 kills in the game, spikes the ball against  Clay's Madison Phillips (23) and Lydia Winckowski. Notre Dame's Madeline Smyth, who had 8 kills in the game, spikes the ball against Clay's Madison Phillips (23) and Lydia Winckowski.
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Notre Dame started well and ended well in its Three Rivers Athletic Conference volleyball match Thursday night at Clay.

In between, the visiting Eagles weren't too bad either in taking an easy 25-13, 25-15, 25-13 victory to up their season record to 10-3 overall, and 4-1 in the TRAC.

Morgan Fioritto led the Notre Dame attack with 15 kills, and teammates Maddy Smyth and Stefanie Comte added eight and six kills, respectively, keyed by 23 assists from setter Christy Ohlinger.

The win leaves the Eagles with their two rivals -- Central Catholic (3-2) and second-ranked St. Ursula (5-0) -- left to play to complete the TRAC regular-season schedule before the conference tournament.

PHOTO GALLERY: Notre Dame at Clay

The Eagles were forced to switch their regular lineup before the match after outside hitter Payton Bowyer was injured said coach Jeff Pitzen.

"Maddy Smyth moved to the outside, and she's phenomenal also," he said. "What we're trying to do is release the game to the girls during playing time, like they do in the Olympics.

"I feel like our team is really gelling. We're starting to peak."

Ohlinger closed out the first game with a block for a point on an attack attempt by Clay's Shalynn Garmon.

The host Eagles (5-4, 2-3 TRAC) stayed with Notre Dame early on in game 2, taking a 6-5 lead on a kill from Taylor Kovach. Smyth answered with a kill to even the score, launching a game-changing 9-1 surge by ND on the serve of Kaitlyn Ward and them Ohlinger.

Morgan Loucks closed the second game with a kill.

"This was a big TRAC match and we have to prepare for Central Catholic and St. Ursula coming up, so you can't take a night off," Fioritto said. "We had a solid block up at the net, and we just work our back row around the block.

"Tip coverage got us a little bit, but we cleaned that up right away and bounced back."

In the third game, Clay was again able to stay within range early before a mid-game Notre Dame run blew things open.

Grace Winckowski's kill tied the game at 5-5 for the host team, but Ohlinger responded with a kill, and Ward reeled off three straight service aces during a 7-1 Notre Dame run that led to a 12-6 lead.

Smyth capped the match with her eighth kill.

"Our serving was really weak, but our setting was great and we've got a great defense," Pitzen said. "We've got a good core of girls and they're crushing the heck out of the ball right now."

"Anyone can hit," Fioritto said of her team's balanced offense. "We have a solid team all around. You just spread the ball out and keep them guessing. We don't have to rely on one person to put the ball down. I think that's why we've been successful so far this year."

Kovach, the only consistent attack threat for the host Eagles, led Clay with nine kills.

"Our passing at the beginning was poor," Clay coach Tracy Donnelly said. "It got a little bit better, but they're a great team and they kept pressure on us all the time.

"They kept the ball in play and did a lot of nice things. Other than Taylor Kovach, we were really out of sync tonight."



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