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ND Volleyball: Road trip to provide tough tests

Sam Werner | Friday, September 5, 2008

The Irish continue their early-season tournament play this weekend, journeying all the way to Moscow, Idaho, to take part in the Idaho Volleyball classic.

Notre Dame will face off against Eastern Washington today and will take on Idaho and Washington State Saturday.

The Irish are 2-1 in the young season after hosting last weekend’s Shamrock Invitational. Freshman outside hitter Kristen Dealy leads Notre Dame with 31 kills on the season.

“I thought she did a great job,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “She took some really aggressive swings. I think she learned a lot from the weekend and I think she’s just going to keep getting better.”

Sophomore Kellie Sciacca and junior Serinity Phillips have also contributed 30 kills apiece. Sciacca was selected to the Big East honor roll this week.

Brown said her team has been focusing on improving its offensive efficiency this week in practice.

“We did pinpoint a few areas,” Brown said. “We were struggling in a few rotations, so we just tried to work those rotations out.”

Eastern Washington enters the tournament with a 1-2 record, participating in last weekend’s Hilton Classic in Fort Collins, Colo. Despite the losing record, the Eagles pushed No. 17 Colorado State to a fifth set before falling at the wire.

Like the Irish, host Idaho enters the tournament 2-1. The Vandals notched wins last weekend over South Dakota State and Southeast Missouri State, with their only loss being to No. 15 Middle Tennessee State.

Idaho is led by senior outside hitter Haley Larsen, the reigning WAC Player of the Week, who has 49 kills on the season.

“I think it’s a pretty competitive field and I know we’re going to be tested,” Brown said. “We’re just looking to put ourselves in competitive situations and respond positively to that.”

Notre Dame’s final opponent, Washington State, is the only undefeated team coming into the event, sporting a 3-0 record after winning last weekend’s Boise State Bronco Invite. Junior defensive specialist/libero Kelly Hyder is third in the PAC-10 with 4.36 digs per set.

This weekend marks the first time Notre Dame will play a volleyball game in the state of Idaho, but Brown doesn’t think the unusual travel schedule will bother her team.

“We sometimes play better on the road than we do at home,” Brown said. “It’s not necessarily a real easy trip, but I don’t think it should affect us.”

Notes:

uNotre Dame coach Debbie Brown was honored by her alma mater, USC, on Thursday night during the Trojans’ match against Oklahoma. Brown won national championships with the Trojans in 1976 and 1977, also winning the Mikasa Award as the “nation’s best all-around player” in those years. A permanent banner with Brown’s name will hang in the Galen Center.

“I’m really honored and certainly it’s a testament to the teams we had here,” Brown said. “To be a part of the first two national championships at USC was just a great experience for me.”