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ND Volleyball: Two Big East foes await Irish

Jared Jedick | Friday, October 3, 2008

Notre Dame heads to the Ohio River Valley this weekend to face Big East opponents Louisville and Cincinnati and will try to keep its undefeated Big East record alive.

The Irish (7-7, 2-0 Big East) are tied on top of league standings with a perfect conference record. The Irish share the lead with St. John’s (11-6) and Pittsburgh (9-7) through one week of league competition.

Defeating South Florida (10-6, 1-1 Big East) and Georgetown (8-7, 1-1 Big East) last weekend put the Irish at 598 wins in program history. Winning both games this weekend would earn the Irish their 600th win.

Sophomore middle blocker Kellie Sciacca was named Big East player of the week for her performances against USF and Georgetown. The honor was the first for any Irish player this year.

Sciacca had 20 kills against USF for a .643 average, good enough for the fourth highest average ever in school history for a four-set match. Sciacca finished with only two faults on 28 attempts.

Sciacca continued that dominance against Georgetown with nine kills on 15 swings with three errors for a .400 average. She also had an ace and solo block.

The Irish start play on Saturday afternoon in Cardinal Arena against Louisville (5-7, 1-1 Big East). The Cardinals were the Big East coaches’ preseason pick to win the Big East.

Louisville lost to St. John’s this weekend before earning a win against Connecticut (10-5, 1-1 Big East). Cardinals junior middle blocker Lecia Brown had 13 kills and eight blocks in the St. John’s match before losing in the fifth set, 3-2.

The Irish played Louisville twice last year and splitting the season series. Sciacca highlighted the first match with a career-best .632 hitting percentage and hit 14 of 19 kills in a 3-0 loss that knocked the Irish out of the conference tournament. The Irish had beaten the Cardinals earlier in the year 3-1.

Second up for the Irish on Sunday is a trip to face a strong Cincinnati (10-5, 0-2 Big East) team.

The Bearcats were also ranked No. 3 in the Big East preseason coaches’ poll.

Notre Dame swept the Bearcats last year, winning the regular-season contest and knocking Cincinnati out of the first round of the Big East tournament.

The Bearcats lost their first two Big East matches of the season, 3-0 to St. John’s and 3-2 to Connecticut, spoiling a 10-3 start to the season.

Freshman outside hitter Missy Harpenau recorded the team’s first double-double of the season against IUPUI in a 3-0 win. Harpenau registered 11 kills and 12 digs.

Notre Dame has several players in the top statistical categories in the Big East. Sciacca has the eighth best hitting percentage (.311) and second-best in league play (.558). Junior outside hitter Christina Kaelin’s 3.22 kills/set overall average is ninth while her league mark of 4.29 kills/set is third. Senior middle blocker Justine Stremick (1.19) ranks third and junior middle blocker Tara Enzweiler (1.14) ranks fourth in blocks/set overall. Junior setter Jamel Nicholas is third among setters with 11.86 assists/set.

The Irish will follow up their big weekend with a return home for more Big East Play against West Virginia and Pittsburgh.