The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Challenges await Irish

Anne Loughery | Friday, September 17, 2004

The Irish aren’t ones to shy away from a challenge.

Already this year, the team held its ground versus preseason No. 2 Nebraska (3-0, 3-2), nearly upsetting the team in the second game. The Irish (4-3) will take on rival Michigan State Friday and host South Carolina Sunday.

Neither team looks to be a pushover.

Michigan State (5-1) started the season flawlessly, winning its Coca-Cola/MSU Volleyball Invitational and sweeping opponents Ohio, St. John’s and Florida A&M. No. 6 Washington handed the Spartans their only loss of the season 3-0.

The team earned a bid to the NCAA Championships last year before losing to Dayton in the opening round. Coach Chuck Erbe led the Spartans to a sixth-place finish in the Big Ten Conference and posted a 19-12 record. Ironically, he coached Irish coach Debbie Brown at USC, when the Trojans collected two consecutive national championships.

Traditionally, the Spartans have notched wins against the Irish, holding the advantage in the series record 7-3.

On Saturday, Notre Dame was scheduled to face No. 2 USC. University officials announced Thursday that the Trojans were withdrawing from this weekend’s invitational due to “safety issues and travel difficulties as a result of the severe weather conditions in the Southeast caused by Hurricane Ivan and the upcoming Hurricane Jeanne.”

Host South Carolina (5-2) will bring a great presence to the court on Sunday when they meet the Irish. Competing in front of a home crowd, the Gamecocks are playing for pride and are expected to impress. Wake Forest (3-1) and Duke (3-0) were the only teams to beat the Gamecocks this season. Last year, South Carolina bested No. 15 Notre Dame last season in four close matches, 30-26, 30-27, 24-30, 31-29.

This whirlwind weekend should be an opportunity for Notre Dame to prove what a solid and capable team they are.

At the Cal Poly Invitational last weekend, the Irish captured the championship title over Fresno State, Cal Poly, and Sacramento State. Statistically, the Irish were at their best this season, recording 59 kills – almost 20 per game – and registering a .311 hitting percentage.

Junior middle blocker Lauren Brewster earned the title of tournament MVP after registering 3.82 kills per game and recording a 3.72 hitting percentage. She also contributed 28 digs, 18 blocks, and four aces during the two matches.

Her efforts in the invitational also demonstrated to Big East officials that she was deserving of her fourth Big East player of the week honor. Last week, Brewster tallied three double-doubles in four matches last week, totaling 60 kills on a .336 hitting percentage. She also averaged 1.62 blocks and 2.56 digs per game.

Junior outside hitter Lauren Kelbley was also named to the Cal Poly All-Tournament team after notching 4.00 kills per game and seven service aces.

With talented individuals like Brewster and Kelbley leading the team, the Irish should be a formidable force this weekend.