The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Volleyball: Shamrock Invitational Attracts Top Foes

Kyle Cassily | Friday, September 1, 2006

No. 21 Notre Dame looks to improve its offensive game this weekend as it hosts the 12th annual Shamrock Invitational at the Joyce Center.The three-day tournament’s first serve is today at noon with No. 6 Santa Clara facing off against Valparaiso. The Irish play Valparaiso in their opener at 7 p.m. The two other teams in the tournament are No. 13 Missouri and Idaho.Notre Dame will play Idaho Saturday at 12:30 p.m. before a match against Missouri that will be broadcast live on College Sports Television Network at 7 p.m. The four-game home weekend concludes with the toughest test for the Irish – a 2 p.m. Sunday standoff against Santa Clara.”I think we’re going into every match feeling confident that we have the ability to win,” Notre Dame head coach Debbie Brown said. “It’s challenging, four matches in three days. We absolutely believe we have a chance to win all of them.”With the strenuous schedule of the Invitational and its early position in the season, Brown sees the tournament as a starting point from which the Irish can gel rather than a must-win series.”It’s important that we play in a sport that there’s a tournament at the end,” she said. “It’s not something that will be critical to the success of the season. It is something that will help develop the chemistry and confidence of the team. We know that we’re going to learn a lot from the weekend, no matter the outcome.”This will be the first match the Irish have played since a 3-0 victory over Bowling Green on Saturday – a match in which freshman Christina Kaelin had 24 kills and earned Big East rookie of the week honors. Despite the Falcon shutout, Brown said she would like to see her individual hitters improve their efficiency in order to increase the team’s overall percentage of successful shots made.The team has also been working all week on shot selection, serving and transition offense in practice.”I think it’s really realistic. It’s going to be a hard thing to do,” Kaelin said of earning four wins this weekend. “We’re going to have to play really well since we have so many new people on the court. We need some time to work out the kinks.”Valparaiso (3-0) comes into the weekend off a three-win showing at the Chicagoland Classic. The Irish are 20-3 all-time against the Crusaders, who are the second most-common opponent in Notre Dame history.Idaho (0-3) has struggled in the early season, losing three matches to Oklahoma, Arkansas and North Carolina. This will be only the third time that the Vandals and Irish have met, with the series tied at one apiece.Missouri (3-1) and Santa Clara (3-0) are both top-25 ranked teams and fresh faces for the Irish – this is the second and first time, respectively, that Notre Dame has faced these opponents. Santa Clara advanced to the NCAA tournament semifinals just a year ago before losing to No. 1 Nebraska and Missouri made it to the NCAA round of 16 – as did the Irish.”It’s hard at this point, everyone has just played one weekend,” Brown said of gauging the competition. “A lot of it, we’re going to have to be able to use the depth we have on the team. By the time we play on Sunday, fatigue comes into it. But I feel we’re in really good shape. It’s just going to be the ability to concentrate on one match at a time for sure.”Notre Dame has won the Invitational eight times – including five in a row – and holds a 27-4 all-time record in it.”I’m excited. It’s something I’ve never been a part of before, we’re all looking forward to it,” Kaelin said of the tournament. “It’s a challenge, and we’re all ready for it.”