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ND Volleyball: Brown in familiar territory

Kyle Cassily | Friday, September 15, 2006

Debbie Brown will travel to Tempe, Ariz., this weekend not only to the Sun Devil Invitational – but back to where she began her head coaching career.

The Notre Dame coach landed her first head coach job at Arizona State in 1983 – she was the team’s assistant coach from 1980-82 – after being a co-captain for the U.S. National Team. She led the Sun Devils until 1988 when she left to become an assistant coach for the U.S. team, eventually joining the Irish in 1992.

In 1986, Brown coached the Sun Devils to a 27-7 record and was named Pacific-10 Conference Coach of the Year.

But Tempe will not be as welcoming a place this time around for Brown when Notre Dame enters the desert for a three-game tournament. The Irish (4-4) will open Friday against Butler, play Saturday against Duke and conclude with a Sunday matinee against the Sun Devils. This will be the fifth time overall and the second consecutive year that the Irish have faced Arizona State.

Brown and the team were unavailable for comment Thursday because they were traveling.

The two teams met in the Shamrock Invitational Sept. 4, 2005 and played a close-fought five-game match. The Irish prevailed in the fifth game, taking the match 30-20, 28-30, 21-30, 30-23, 15-10.

Notre Dame is looking to rebound after a two-loss weekend in the three-match University of Northern Iowa Invitational – the Irish earned a 3-1 win against Alabama.

Arizona State (6-2) lost to No. 14 Purdue and No. 15 Ohio State and is undefeated in three home matches this season. The team is led by outside hitter Margo Giordano – the sophomore has 107 kills on the season for an average of 3.96 kills per game.

Butler (5-5) has a strong start to open the season – the Bulldogs won five of their first six games. But the team has struggled as of late, losing four straight matches – including one to Notre Dame’s Big East rival DePaul.

The Irish and Bulldogs were formerly adversaries in the North Star Conference prior to Notre Dame’s inception into the Big East – Butler now plays in the Horizon League. The teams last met in 1994 – an Irish win – and Notre Dame holds a 13-6 all-time advantage.

The Blue Devils have parlayed a strong finish in the 2005 season – a NCAA Tournament berth and second-round loss to No. 1 Nebraska – into a 5-1 record to open this season.

Duke’s only loss was a 3-0 loss Sept. 2 to No. 2 Penn State. The Blue Devils have defeated Marquette and West Virginia by 3-1 and 3-0 margins respectively – both 2006 Irish opponents and conference rivals.

Junior Carrie DeMange is averaging 4.33 kills per game for the Blue Devils with 78 kills total. The Irish have won the last four meetings between the two teams and hold a 5-1 edge all-time.

The Irish fell out of the newest American Volleyball Coaches Association top-25 poll – they were ranked No. 23 last week. The team is now receiving 10 votes, while Duke is one spot ahead with 13 votes.