I know it's easy to attribute the success to a coaching change, but how much is due to new players or the development of the youger classes?
ND seems to have a core rotation of nine players -- 1 senior, four juniors, three sophomores, and 1 freshman. So, Jim McLaughlin has developed the juniors and sophomores, which comprise the bulk of the playing time.
Only one freshman is playing -- but Jemma Yeadon is making a major contribution every match. In the matches I've attended, she's one player who never subs out, and brings skill, athleticism and intensity each night out.
ND took its lumps in the ACC last year -- finishing 2-18 in conference. They're off to a stellar 6 and 0 start beating teams that they lost to last year. Over the weekend, they didn't lose a set on the road at Syracuse and BC -- teams that beat ND twice each last year.
We'll learn more after Friday's home match vs North Carolina. The Tarheels match ND's 6-0 record in the ACC. The next two teams in the standings are Florida State and Duke at 5-1. ND plays Florida State at home on October 30th. ND beat Duke 3-1 last month -- they play a return match at Duke in early November.
has been a difference maker at setter. I thought that a .500 record in the ACC this year would have been a reasonable mark of improvement. However, ND has improved its play significantly and passed the middle of the pack teams in the conference. As you noted, the NC and FSU games will be a good indicator of how close ND is to the top of the ACC. Matches at Pitt and at Duke will also be important.
ND played without Sam Fry this weekend. Was she injured?
will be the big test. NC is 14-2 as both teams are the only conference undefeated teams. North Carolina is the highest nationally ranked ACC team. Friday they beat FSU 3-0 who were the only other nationally ranked ACC team at #16 (who are now 12-3 and 5-1 in ACC play).
If ND can beat NC on Friday and follow up with a win against NC State Sunday, I would expect they will be ranked for the first time in several years. Even with their great record ND still hasn't beaten a ranked team with their only chance losing at #21 MSU. ND has yet to get a vote by the AVCA head coaches in ranking but this week might be the first given they have a record better than at least 10 of the teams ranked. Still Volleyball is dominated by the Big 10 (9 of their 14 teams are top 25 nationally ranked) and the PAC12 where 8 of their 12 teams are in the top 27 nationally. ACC, SEC, & Big 12 only have 2 each. The few other teams are 2 from WCC (#5 San Diego, # 13 BYU) and #12 Hawaii & # 25 Western Kentucky.