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ND Volleyball:Irish are smiling, but for how long?

Ellyn Michalak | Friday, November 16, 2007

Notre Dame’s successful final conference weekend put a smile on senior captain Adrianna Stasiuk’s face, and Stasiuk hopes she’s still smiling after the Irish face No. 5 seed Cincinnati today in the first round of the Big East tournament.

“[Last] weekend had to have been my favorite [Notre Dame] weekend of all my four years,” she said. “We are all so pleased with how we played and of how we fought against Cincinnati and Louisville.”

The Irish faced off against the Bearcats last Saturday. Senior setter Ashley Tarutis led the offense with six kills and 51 assists, and Notre Dame’s outstanding defense earned a 3-1 victory (31-33, 30-23, 30-28, 30-20) that guaranteed the Irish entry into this year’s league tournament.

“Our blocking was outstanding, and our scrappy defense kept the ball alive [during the Cincinnati match],” Stasiuk said.

Last Sunday, Louisville made the trip to South Bend to compete against the Irish in front of 1,511 fans. The Irish dominated the match with 11 kills and 11 digs from Stasiuk and a match-high 58 assists from Tarutis. Notre Dame beat Louisville 3-1 (30-28, 30-16, 25-30, 30-28).

“We outworked our opponents and played intelligently,” sophomore outside hitter Megan Fesl said. “We really executed our game plan well and just had fun playing. I think the fun and excitement of each match really helped us the most.”

The weekend brought top awards for two Irish players. Fesl received player of the week honors from the Big East and freshman middle blocker Kellie Sciacca won her third rookie of the week recognition. Together the two swept the Big East honors for the week.

This weekend, the Irish will travel to Marquette to begin competition in the Big East tournament against the Bearcats. Irish coach Debbie Brown and her players plan on improving their offensive tactics to defeat the Bearcats for the second time this season, Fesl said.

“This week in practice, we are focusing on making our side of the net better,

and also on slowing down some of Cincinnati’s plays that hurt us the first time around,” Fesl said.

The match begins at 11 a.m. today at Marquette. If the Irish beat Cincinnati, they will compete Saturday in the Big East semifinals.

“We just have to focus on one match at a time,” Stasiuk said. “We have to look at the improvements we can make to ensure our win.”