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Irish go on the road to face Big East rivals

Heather VanHoegarden | Friday, November 14, 2003

It’s over. Now it’s time to move on to more important things – the Big East.

The No. 12 Irish look to get back on track this weekend coming off a road loss on Tuesday to No. 14 Northern Iowa (22-4). The loss snapped the Irish’s 14-game winning streak.

“It was a disappointing loss,” senior Jessica Kinder said of the four-game match. “Obviously, we wanted to go in and win, but it by no means stops our confidence.”

Tuesday’s loss saw the Irish hit a mere .185 on the match and .000 in game three alone, the only game – ironically – the Irish won, as the Panthers hit -.020 in that game.

Now, the Irish (21-3) will try to rebound as they return to Big East play, where they are 10-0. Saturday, the Irish face West Virginia (6-19, 2-8) and Sunday they face Pittsburgh (20-4, 9-1) to wrap up the regular season conference schedule.

“Our whole team is just planning on playing our game,” Jessica Kinder said. “I don’t think there’s any real huge adjustments that need to be made – it is just a matter of knowing that if we take care of our side of the court we can play with anybody.”

If the Irish win Saturday, they claim a share of the Big East regular season title. A win Sunday would give them the outright championship, as Pittsburgh is in second place.

The Panthers come off a 3-0 win over West Virginia last Friday, and their one conference loss came at the hands of Virginia Tech. But the Panthers are the team to beat for the Irish, having knocked off Miami earlier this season and clinching a Big East tournament berth for the first time since 2000.

But the Irish expect a challenge in both games this weekend. They are led by senior setter Kristen Kinder, who had 49 assists against Northern Iowa, and sophomore middle blocker Lauren Brewster who had 14 kills and 9 blocks. Brewster is second in the country in blocks per game. Also contributing to the Irish this year have been libero Meg Henican (17 digs against the Panthers), Lauren Kelbley (11 kills) and Emily Loomis (13 kills, 8 digs).

Still, going on the road will be a challenge for the Irish, who have yet to play their best volleyball of the season.

“We have just been focused on having our best game of the season every game, and we haven’t played to the top of our game yet in a single match,” Jessica Kinder (8 kills, 9 digs on Tuesday) said. “So, regardless of who’s on the other side of the net, we are using each match as an opportunity to play our best volleyball of the season.

So what should the Irish do to play well?

“I think it’s just a matter of everyone knows what they need to do, individually each of us taking care of our roles on the team,” Jessica Kinder said. “As a whole, we have to make sure everyone’s on the same page, everyone’s focused.”

This weekend will provide the Irish with two more chances to do just that, as they try to win the Big East for the ninth time in 10 years. Since volleyball has been played in the Big East, 17 of the 21 championships have gone to either Notre Dame or Pittsburgh. But the Irish are up to the challenge.

“We’re there,” Jessica Kinder said. “We’re at that level where we can play with great teams.”