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ND Volleyball: Veterans return for shot at title

Dan Murphy | Friday, August 24, 2007

Last season, Notre Dame came three points away from capturing the Big East championship. This time around the Irish have a new look and are the preseason favorites to win it all.Four talented freshmen join the squad this year despite losing only one senior to graduation in 2007. Stephanie Slatt, Kellie Sciacca, Angela Puente and Megan Dunne are expected to use their speed to contribute right out of the gates.”They’re all working really hard and making good progress,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “They have a great work ethic and the senior leadership has really set the tone for that.”Co-captains Adrianna Stasiuk and Ashley Tarutis are Notre Dame’s only seniors this season, but bring an abundance of talent and experience to the table. Both players have been starters since their rookie seasons and this year Stasiuk was unanimously selected to the preseason all-conference team. The Irish also get another healthy dose of experience from new assistant coach Lauren Brewster. Brewster joined the coaching staff this summer, but is no stranger to Notre Dame volleyball. The 2006 graduate was a two-time All-American under Brown and one of the best blockers in the program’s history.”She is a great blocking coach and just a really valuable person to have in the gym,” Stasiuk said. Brewster and Stasiuk played together for two seasons prior to Brewster’s return as a coach. According to both, the transition to a player-coach relationship for all of the upperclassmen has gone smoother than expected.”They are all great players and they all respect what our relationship is right now,” Brewster said. Brewster hopes that her expertise in blocking will help give Brown more time to focus on the new offense the team is using this season. The team will be switching to a faster-paced, more exciting offensive attack in which the ball can come from anywhere on the court. Brown hopes that the teams increased depth and speed will make for a perfect fit with the new system.”We are trying to capitalize on some of the strengths that we have,” Brown said. “We are able to move our hitters around a little more and have a few different patterns.”Notre Dame leaps head-first into its season this weekend with a pair of matches against top-10 teams. The Irish took on No. 9 Minnesota yesterday and play No. 7 Florida Sunday at 7 p.m. in the Joyce Center.