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ND Volleyball: ND hosts Pittsburgh, UVA

Devin Preston | Friday, November 10, 2006

Notre Dame hosts its final two matches of the regular season at the Joyce Center this weekend, looking to end with one more pair of wins. The Irish take on conference rival Pittsburgh at 2 p.m. Saturday and West Virginia at 2 p.m. Sunday, Notre Dame looks to close its season out with one more pair of wins.”Going into the Big East tournament, we want to finish strong at home and keep that third seed,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said.Pittsburgh hopes to upset Notre Dame and move themselves past the Irish in the postseason rankings. The Panthers (20-8, 8-4 Big East) are one of five teams other than Notre Dame (15-10, 9-3 Big East) that have already clinched a berth in the Big East tournament. Placement in the tournament is not the only thing fueling Notre Dame this weekend. The Irish look to avenge a five-game loss to the Panthers last fall, Notre Dame’s only conference blemish in the 2005 regular season. Led by junior Diana Andreyko’s 4.08 kills per game and .238 hitting percentage, Pittsburgh has a formidable offense. “Pittsburgh has very good outside hitters,” Brown said. “We’re going to need to slow them down and hold them to low hitting percentages.” This will be an important focus for Notre Dame, which is currently fourth in the Big East in opponents’ hitting percentage. Big East teams have hit .173 against Notre Dame. Pittsburgh also has very proficient blockers, posting 3.41 blocks per game – the second highest average in the Big East.On paper, Sunday’s match against West Virginia does not appear as threatening as the match against Pittsburgh. The Mountaineers (2-27, 1-11 Big East) have never beaten the Irish at the Joyce Center. West Virginia comes in at the bottom of the league offensively with only 11.63 kills a game and a .091 hitting percentage. However, the West Virginia defense is more capable of containing Notre Dame. The Mountaineers are led by senior libero Aurora Ebert-Santos, whose 4.77 conference digs per game places her above Notre Dame’s senior libero Danielle Herndon’s 4.55 digs per game.”We made a lot of progress last week with two great offensive performances,” Brown said.With its last two tune-ups before the Big East tournament, Notre Dame hopes to keep its momentum intact on the team’s Senior Day.