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ND VOLLEYBALL: Notre Dame hosts rare top-10 showdown with Bearcats

Tom Dorwart | Friday, October 28, 2005

So far this season, the Irish are living their motto – “Raising the bar.”

No. 6 and undefeated Louisville comes to the Joyce Center this Saturday, and the Irish expect to win. The bar has been raised so high that the Irish sit one spot behind the Cardinals in the American Volleyball Coaches Association polls.

For the first time since 1996, two Top 10 volleyball teams will face each other at the Joyce Center.

Saturday at 2 p.m., No. 7 Notre Dame (18-1, 8-0 Big East) takes on the Cardinals (20-0, 8-0 Big East). Then, the Irish – who will either be fresh off a season-changing, perhaps season-defining victory or off a tough loss – will host Cincinnati (15-7, 6-2 Big East) Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

The Irish have won 11 straight and are tied for the highest-ever rating in school history. Their 18-1 start also matches the program’s best 19-match start.

With the unblemished Cardinals coming to town, the Irish certainly aren’t intimidated. They have already beaten three Top 15 teams this year, including then-No. 4 Florida, No. 8 USC and No. 11 Texas. Florida’s lone loss is to Notre Dame. The Gators have remained at No. 4 since the upset. Still, the Irish know they are in for a dogfight.

“We know we’re going to have to have a good gameplan against their offense and against their star player who’s just been playing very, very well,” coach Debbie Brown said.

That star is 6-foot-3 outside hitter Lena Ustymenko.

“She’s very, very good,” Brown said. “I think that’s going to be key for us. We’re going to have to neutralize her for sure, but they have other weapons as well.

“It will be fun to look at some tape and then come up with a plan and be able to just get out and play again against a very, very good team.”

Sunday’s match against the Bearcats will be televised by ESPNU – the first match ever to be televised live from the Joyce Center.

While it could be easy to get pumped up for Louisville and forget about Sunday’s match, Brown knows her team can’t and won’t do that. The Bearcats are a solid volleyball team. They lost to Louisville 30-26, 17-30, 26-30, 28-30 earlier this season.

With such a huge weekend ahead considering the Big East regular season race, Brown says her team will be more than ready.

“The team will be motivated for sure,” she said. “I don’t think there’s anything we need to do. There’s going to be plenty of motivation. We know what’s at stake. It’s going to be great.”

Sophomore outside hitter and CVU.com National Player of the Week Adrianna Stasiuk agrees with her coach.

“I think everyone’s really excited,” she said. “Everyone on the team is really into it. Everyone’s giving 100 percent.”

“The energy level is really high. We’re all really pumped.”

This weekend the Irish will get the ultimate test.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Stasiuk said when asked if the Irish, despite sitting at 18-1 and 8-0 in the Big East, still have something to prove to the country and to the coaches who vote in the polls. “We definitely have something to prove. We always have something to prove no matter what.”