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ND Volleyball: No. 2 Irish ready to defend title at home

Heather VanHoegarden | Friday, November 21, 2003

They lost the No. 1 seed in this tournament, but the buck stops there.No. 2 seed Notre Dame (22-4, 11-1) is determined to win the Big East Tournament this weekend, after losing to Pittsburgh (22-4, 11-1) last weekend to tie for the regular season title, and give Pittsburgh the No. 1 seed in this weekend’s Big East Tournament.”[The Big East Tournament Championship] is not the ultimate goal, but it’s really important to us and we want to defend the title,” coach Debbie Brown said.The Irish have the firepower to do so, but they face a formidable opponent, in No. 3 seed Miami (22-8, 9-3). The last time these teams matched up, the Irish beat the Hurricanes 3-0 on College Sports Television at the Joyce Center.But it won’t be as easy this time around.”The last match against Miami means nothing,” Brown said. “It’s another match and we have to prove ourselves again.”That win was in front of a record 2,715 fans – the most for a volleyball match not played before a Notre Dame football pep rally. It was also a win in which Miami’s star Valeria Tipiana only registered four kills after coming off an injury.On the other side of the net, the Irish have been led by senior setter Kristen Kinder. She distributes the ball in a potent offense that includes junior Emily Loomis and sophomore middle blockers Lauren Kelbley and Lauren Brewster.This sophomore duo helps the Irish lead the nation in blocking, with a 3.73 per game average. Brewster is second in the nation, with 1.79 blocks per game.”Our block is key to our success,” Brown said.However, that is not all that the Irish bring to the table. They have benefited from the outstanding play of libero Meg Henican and defensive specialist Danielle Herndon.When Notre Dame puts it all together, they have been a tough team to stop.”In order for us to be smooth, passing has to be good, setting has to be good hitters have to be on and they have to be smart,” Brown said. “Overall, throughout the season, we’ve done a lot of good things – it’s just a matter of everyone doing their job.”But the Irish know they have room to improve, and they will work on this as they try to repeat as the Big East Tournament Champions.”We’re not looking at the last match,” Brown said. “We’re taking it a day at a time and looking forward to playing Miami. We feel like we have a good block defense, serving strategy, and we think our offense can do well [against Miami]. They will be hungry and we expect it to be a very competitive match.”Game time is set for 3:30 p.m. in the Joyce Center. At 1 p.m., Pittsburgh will face Villanova in the first semifinal game.The winners of both games square off at 2 p.m. Sunday for the championship.