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ND Volleyball: Irish seek tourney bid

Pat O'Brien | Friday, November 9, 2007

Notre Dame (11-12, 7-5 Big East) is tied for fifth in the Big East, and while it hasn’t clinched a spot in the league’s eight-team tournament, its two final foes of the regular season, Cincinnati (17-9, 8-4) and No. 17 Louisville (19-4, 12-0) have already secured two invitations.

The final eight teams may not be determined until the last games of the regular season have been played on Sunday. Implications of their final two games remain huge for the Irish. Notre Dame plays Cincinnati today at 4 p.m. in the Joyce Center and hosts Louisville at 2 p.m. Sunday.

“We try to treat every match we play as the most important one, but I really do think that these are probably matches that are the most important matches of the season,” sophomore outside hitter Megan Fesl said. “They are crucial to the rest of our season.”

Notre Dame took on the Bearcats twice last season in Cincinnati, and the last match-up was a 3-2 decision in favor of Notre Dame in the first round of the Big East tournament. The first match was a lopsided 3-0 win in favor of the Bearcats.

This year, however, Cincinnati has been streaky. It has won its last three matches, but before that they dropped five in a row. And before that skid, the Bearcats were victorious in seven straight outcomes.

The Irish, coming off of home victories over Georgetown and South Florida, are captained by senior Adrianna Stasiuk, who leads the team in service aces and is second in kills. Fesl said her team hopes to ride its recent wave of success to another victory.

“I think we’re definitely going to use the momentum from last weekend to help us for this weekend,” Fesl said. “Those two wins changed our prospective and gave us a little bit of hope. [The wins] made us have a really strong week of practice.”

The Bearcats will be led by junior middle blocker Jessie Nevittm, who has recorded 350 kills and 124 blocks this season and looks to place herself on the first team all-Big East for the third year in a row.

Louisville has dominated the last two seasons in the Big East. The Cardinals not only won the Big East championship over Notre Dame last season by a final of 3-2, they defeated the Irish in the regular season in Louisville as well by a tally of 3-0.

This year, they have won all their Big East matches, with only four of them by the score of 3-1 – the other eight were all shutouts. This weekend’s matches will be the final home games for Notre Dame this season.

“Hopefully we will have great crowds both days. I’m pretty confident that a lot of people know about our [matches],” Fesl said. “I think that having a huge, loud gym full of Irish fans is really going to help us.”