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ND VOLLEYBALL:Irish refusing to take Valpo squad lightly

Tom Dorwart | Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Even after a long run against top-ranked teams and solid Big East foes, the No. 10 Irish don’t think they are getting a break tonight when they take on Valparaiso at 7 p.m. in the Joyce Center.

Not after losing last season’s regular season match against the Crusaders or after seeing the way the Crusaders have played so far this season.

“I think they basically have the same team that they had last year,” coach Debbie Brown said. “They have a new libero and a new defensive specialist. Their hitters are the same. Their setter is the same, and they’re very experienced.

“They’re very comfortable playing with each other.”

Valparaiso enters the match with a 14-3 record. The Crusaders have played a daunting early-season schedule and come through it fairly unscathed.

They played No. 21 UCLA back-and-forth before falling 28-30, 30-21, 30-24, 24-30, 9-15. Before that, they fell to No. 8 Wisconsin in a tight match, 21-30, 21-30, 22-30.

The Crusaders are 2-0 against Big East opponents this season. They defeated DePaul and Villanova. The team will also play Marquette later this season.

“I think the challenge for us is that they are a really balanced offensive team,” Brown said. “And that makes it a little tougher to stop when they’ve got five hitters that all take a decent amount of swings, as well as their setters are pretty accurate – and pretty offensive also.”

After playing UCLA and Wisconsin tough, the Crusaders will be gunning for their first upset of a ranked team this season.

They’ll be trying to end a streak – a losing streak against ranked teams. But, at the same time, they’ll be trying to keep their winning streak against Big East opponents alive.

Though the Irish fell 3-2 in last season’s early regular season match, they played the Crusaders in the NCAA tournament and won, 3-1.

While the Irish have played four straight road matches and have four more road matches to go after tonight’s home match, they’re fully aware that, this time, home could be more difficult than the road.

Their preparation has been satisfactory as Brown said they had a good practice today and a helpful film session, Brown said.

“That was good for us,” she said. “It was good to look at some film and get a good idea some of the offensive plays patterns that they run.”

Though this is a mid-week, non-conference match, Brown and her players realize they’re in for a challenge.

When asked if her players are taking Valparaiso lightly or as a break from Big East play, she didn’t hesitate.

“Not at all,” Brown said.