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ND Women’s Volleyball: Team starts conference slate with a pair of victories

Jared Jedick | Monday, September 29, 2008

The Irish stepped up to the plate and came up huge this weekend, starting the Big East season off right with two solid wins against South Florida and Georgetown.

Notre Dame improved its overall record to 2-0 in the Big East (7-7 overall) to propel itself into a tie for first place in the conference with Seton Hall.

Irish coach Debbie Brown kept things in perspective, however, not wanting her team to get ahead of themselves.

“It’s still way too early [to worry about first place],” Brown said.

Up first for the Irish on Friday was a strong South Florida (10-6, 1-1 Big East) team led by All-American junior outside hitter Marcela Gurgel. The Irish defeated the Bulls 3-1.

Gurgel paced the Bulls with 19 kills and 11 digs, but the Irish were able to control her for the most part.

“We had a pretty high number of kills, which helps,” Brown said. “We held her under her percentage average, and we took some of her shots away.”

Notre Dame’s lineup changes in light of junior outside hitter Serinity Phillips absence due to an ankle injury saw senior outside hitter Justine Stremick on the right with junior middle blocker Tara Enzweiler and Sciacca in the middle. Brown cited this formation as helping her team deal with USF.

Starring for the Irish against the Bulls was sophomore outside hitter Kellie Sciacca. Sciacca had 20 kills on 28 attempts for a .643 average in the match.

“[Sciacca] came alive offensively, she was on her game,” Brown said. “It was really, really good to see.”

Junior outside hitter Christina Kaelin also pitched in with 18 kills and a .429 hitting average.

“Kaelin let her competiveness take over,” Brown said. “She wanted the ball and she had some great swings. I was really pleased with her performance.”

The first set against the Bulls went well for the Irish largely due to the power of Sciacca’s six kills in the frame, including the set-winner.

In the only set that the Irish would drop this weekend, the second, the Irish nevertheless drove the Bulls to the wire 21-25 and posted a .406 hitting percentage.

Sciacca’s kills and the Notre Dame defense continued to stand strong in the final two sets, winning them both 25-21 and 25-22.

The second match was on Sunday against a hostile Georgetown (8-7; 1-1 Big East) team eager to prove itself defending its home turf. The Irish ended Georgetown’s five game home winning streak with a three set sweep of the Hoyas.

“We were able to take their outside hitters out of the game,” Brown said.

Kaelin and Sciacca again both paced the Irish with 12 and 9 kills, respectively.

Sciacca had five of her kills in the first set along with four kills and one block from Enzweiler. The team hit .343.

The Irish dominated the second set 25-16 as Kaelin Enzweiler, Sciacca, Stremick and freshman outside hitter Kristen Dealy all had at least three kills in the frame.

In the final frame, strong defense led to 15-3 run that sealed the match for the Irish.

The Irish will continue Big East play on Saturday when they travel to Kentucky to face Louisville before matching up with Cincinnati on Sunday.