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ND Volleyball: Irish tackle three opponents after split

Jared Jedick | Friday, September 12, 2008

Coming off a tough weekend in Idaho, there is no rest for the weary as the Irish are gearing up to face their stiffest test of year at the Diet Coke Classic in Minneapolis.

On the docket for the Irish (3-3) are three ranked teams in the CBS College Sports Network/AVCA Division I Coaches Poll: No. 16 Cal Poly, No. 4 California and No. 11 Minnesota.

Leading the team is junior outside hitter Christina Kaelin’s 60 kills and freshman defensive specialist/libero Frency Silva’s 88 digs.

Notre Dame’s three victories have come against IPFW, Nevada and Washington State this year, but they have yet to face teams with the talent they are going to face this weekend.

The Irish are coming off a 3-0 loss to Idaho in which they were only able to manage a .074 hitting percentage while committing nine service errors and six serve-receptions errors. Idaho put 15 team blocks on Notre Dame in the sweep.

Coming into the weekend series, Irish coach Debbie Brown is familiar with the Pac-10. Brown was an All-American at USC and coached Arizona State.

Up first today at 3 p.m. is No. 16 Cal Poly (4-2), who in coming off a tough loss to No. 2 Nebraska. Senior opposite Kylie Atherstone, who earned her conference-record tenth Big West Player of the Week honors last week, leads the Mustangs. Atherstone averaged 3.78 kills and 1.11 aces per set and had a .342 hitting percentage as Cal Poly posted a 2-1 mark at its Sept. 5-6 Paso Robles Marriott Invitational.

Before this year, junior setter Hailey Fithian’s had earned just 125 total assists in 34 sets of action. Overcoming her inexperience, Fithian has already compiled 251 assists through six matches this year and features a 10.46 assists-per-set average that ranks second among Big West players and 47th in Division I.

Things do not get any easier for the Irish on Saturday, when they face No. 4 California (5-0), Notre Dame’s highest ranked opponent of the year thus far. The Irish took the Bears to five sets after losing the first two in a neutral-site match last season.

Cal leads the all-time series against Notre Dame, 2-1.

The Bears kept their season flawless last week by winning three matches without dropping a set at the 2008 Golden Bear Invitational, defeating James Madison, DePaul and UC Riverside.

Finishing up the weekend on Sunday is an equally formidable Minnesota (5-1) squad playing on their home court.

Last weekend at the Honolulu Advertiser Classic the Golden Gophers defeated Cincinnati (3-0), Wyoming (3-0) and lost to No. 11 Hawaii (2-3).

Leading Minnesota is sophomore outside hitter Brook Dieter, who averages 3.22 kills per set, 1.94 digs per set and 0.83 blocks per set.

The Golden Gophers are outhitting their opponents .279 to .133, and out-blocking them 2.95 to 0.95 blocks per set.