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ND VOLLEYBALL: Irish take two road matches

Tom Dorwart | Monday, October 3, 2005

It’s been said before – the No. 10 Irish know they can do better.

At times, they know they make mistakes they shouldn’t and aren’t aggressive when they should be. They know they can be more consistent.

Still, after each nearly flawlessly played match, it might seem as if the Irish are finally going to be happy with themselves – like they’ll finally give themselves a pat on the back or like they’ve finally done better.

Over the weekend, Notre Dame beat its two opponents by a combined 6-1 game score. The defense dominated Friday, recording 68 digs and 10 blocks in just three games, while the offense took over Sunday. The Irish swept the Syracuse Orange 30-17, 30-23, 30-20 for their 13th consecutive victory over their Big East rival and then eased past the Marquette Gold 30-24, 28-30, 30-21, 30-21 to improve to 11-1, 3-0 in Big East play.

But coach Debbie Brown still isn’t satisfied.

“The offense was balanced against Marquette … but we didn’t play one of our best matches. We didn’t play great,” she said matter-of-factly. “We still feel we can play a lot better.”

The Irish traveled to Syracuse, NY Thursday evening, played Friday night, flew to Chicago Saturday morning, bussed to Milwaukee later that day and played Marquette Sunday afternoon.

They had plenty of reasons for being fatigued. They had plenty of excuses for flat play.

But their coach wasn’t buying any of them.

“I don’t think the traveling had any effect on them,” Brown said. “We were able to get enough rest.”

That’s the attitude that’s helped Notre Dame to one of its best starts in school history – the attitude that there’s always work to do and always something to critique.

In the match against the Orange, senior libero/outside hitter Meg Henican led the defense with 26 digs, the second-highest total ever for an Irish player in a three-game match. She finished the weekend with 18 against the Gold.

“I do think Meg played very, very well,” Brown said. “She has been playing really great defense. Overall, Meg had a really strong weekend for us.”

Senior Carolyn Cooper added two to her block total, as she still leads the Big East in the category. The offense was solid as well. Freshman Mallorie Croal led all players with 17 kills and hit .400. Sophomore outside hitter Adrianna Stasiuk nailed 11 kills, her first time in double-figures this season and senior Lauren Kelbley finished with 15 kills and hit .324.

The Notre Dame offense was more balanced in the quick victory over Marquette. Sophomore setter Ashley Tarutis paced the offense with 51 set assists, while four players had double-digit kills. Croal smashed 11. All-Big East picks Kelbley and fellow senior Lauren Brewster pounded 13 and 16 apiece, and Stasiuk exploded for 14. Stasiuk also had 21 digs.

“Offensively, we were balanced, and that was good,” Brown said. “We had a solid third game against Marquette.

“We’re looking forward to, right now, getting a little bit more consistent play, playing the match all the way through.”

Syracuse dropped to 10-6 overall and 2-1 in the Big East, while Marquette fell to 8-7 overall and 2-2 in the Big East.

Still undefeated in the challenging Big East, the Irish will face Valparaiso Wednesday at the Joyce Center before hitting the road for four straight matches.