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ND Volleyball: Irish stay perfect in conference

Meaghan Veselik | Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Notre Dame continued to dominate the Big East on the road over Fall Break as it swept Pittsburgh, West Virginia and DePaul to give the team an eight-game winning streak.

Irish coach Debbie Brown said she felt her team benefitted overall from the break.

“I think the team is in a good place in the terms of confidence we’re developing and playing on a high level,” Brown said. “We were able to play everyone on our roster and not many teams are able to do that.”

The Irish (14-4, 8-0 Big East) remain the only undefeated team in the conference.

They started off with a 3-0 (32-30, 25-21, 25-22) victory Oct. 17 to end a four-year losing streak to the Panthers. The first-set win was the highest scoring set Notre Dame has recorded in the 25-point stage. The Irish also outhit Pittsburgh 28.7 percent to 22.2 percent overall.

Senior outside hitter Christina Kaelin had 18 kills in the match and sophomore outside hitter Kristen Dealy posted a double-double with 13 kills and 13 digs. Senior setter Jamel Nicholas had 44 assists while senior outside hitter Serenity Phillips added 11 kills and five blocks.

Notre Dame’s success carried through to the following day as it swept West Virginia   3-0 (25-26, 25-21, 25-23). The Irish had three players with double-digit digs and two with at least ten kills in the victory. Every Irish player also came off the bench and had significant playing time in the match.  Nine Irish players made at least one kill in the match. Notre Dame outhit West Virginia 25.7 percent to 11.7 percent.

While Notre Dame’s all-around play has improved this season, its side-out game continues to be a strong point. However, Brown said she feels the Irish are making the biggest strides in their defense, especially in their digs and blocking.

Against West Virginia, Phillips posted 18 kills while Kaelin had 10. Sophomore libero Frenchy Silva led the Irish defense with 21 digs, and Nicholas and Dealy each had 10. Phillips also led all players with five blocks and Nicholas had a match-high 39 assists.
Notre Dame has highly benefitted from its extensive senior leadership this season.

“You just can’t duplicate experience,” Brown said. “They have lots of playing time and they’ve been in every experience imaginable, and are experienced in figuring out the way to win and having the confidence to win.”

Phillips’ experience and weekend performances earned her the Big East Player of the Week Award to become the third Notre Dame player to receive the honor this season.

The Irish defeated DePaul 3-0 (25-14, 25-21, 25-12) Friday to win their eighth straight match and their seventh consecutive over the Blue Demons. Irish had 36 kills, 23 assisted by Nicholas. Nicholas also closed the match with two aces.

Phillips led the offense with eight kills, as well as making six digs and three blocks.

Freshman middle blocker Hilary Eppink aided the cause with seven kills in two sets, and senior middle blocker Tara Enzweiler had three blocks.

Nicholas posted a team-high ten digs to lead the Irish defense. Silva and senior outside hitter Megan Fesl posted nine digs each.

Notre Dame returns home to host Seton Hall Saturday and Rutgers Sunday in the renovated Joyce Center Arena.

“The team has done a great job of focusing on one match at a time,” Brown said. “We want to continue getting as many players match time as possible. As we get down the road and into the league and national championships, we need players who have match experience on the court.”