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Irish ready to meet BC in Big East semifinals

Anne Loughery | Friday, November 19, 2004

After claiming the conference regular season title, the Irish look to check another item off their wish list – a Big East Championship.The team (16-8, 9-1 in the Big East) travels to Pittsburgh in hopes of collecting its eighth Big East Championship title this weekend. Notre Dame, seeded first in the tournament, will first face fourth-seeded Boston College (20-11, 6-4) in the semifinals Saturday at 1 p.m. The winner will take on the victor of the Pittsburgh and Syracuse game Sunday at 2 p.m. for the championship.This weekend’s significance goes beyond a championship title and bragging rights, however. The winner of Sunday’s match will claim an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.Coach Debbie Brown says the Irish expect to walk off the courts with a Big East Championship – nothing less is acceptable.”We’re going in really focused and determined to win,” Brown said. “We want to step on the court and make a statement.”Brown added the team anticipates Saturday’s match, looking to redeem itself after losing to Boston College earlier this season.The Eagles upended the Irish in three games 30-14, 30-22, 30-28, handing the team its only conference loss this season. Further, the loss snapped Notre Dame’s streak of 58 consecutive home regular-season victories in Big East competitions since 1995.Boston College averaged 4.67 blocks and 20.33 digs per game, limiting Notre Dame to a .080 hitting mark. Sophomore libero Allison Anderson and middle blocker Shardai Davis led the Eagles’ defensive efforts, with Anderson notching a match-high 21 digs and Davis recording 14 blocks.Notre Dame’s offensive standouts of the match included freshman Ellen Heintzman, who replaced an injured Lauren Kelbley, Lauren Brewster and Carolyn Cooper. Heintzman and Brewster each tallied 11 kills, while Cooper almost tied her career high with seven kills and a team best .211 on hitting. Brewster also teamed up with junior Meg Henican to lead the Irish defense. Henican totaled 15 digs to lead the floor defensive effort, while Brewster took part in four of Notre Dame’s blocks. Since that game, the Irish have won two of the last three matches they have played, defeating Pittsburgh 3-0 and West Virginia 3-0, but dropping a match to Northern Iowa Tuesday night 3-2. Brown described the Northern Iowa match as the perfect form of preparation for the Big East Championship this weekend. She added that despite all of the hype built around this weekend’s matches, the team will be able to keep its nerves in check. “They’re trying to stay in the right frame of mind going into this weekend so they can play relaxed and enjoy the game,” Brown said. “It’s going to take a combined and inspired team effort, but we are expecting to bring the title back to Notre Dame.”