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ND Volleyball: Irish looking for magic two

Chris Masoud | Friday, November 13, 2009

Perfection is hardly commonplace in the world of sports, especially in a conference as demanding as the Big East. But as the Irish play host to Georgetown and South Florida this weekend, the magic number for an unbeaten conference record is down to two.

“The seniors have definitely led us to this position, but I think that it’s something that everyone on this team has really been striving for and working towards,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said.

Having already clinched the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament with a victory over Syracuse and a Cincinnati loss last weekend, Notre Dame (18-4, 12-0 Big East) is one win away from their 11th Big East title, its first since 2005.

“We have two pretty big goals that we hope to come to fruition this weekend, and one is we want to win outright the regular season, but the second one is going undefeated,” Brown said. “I think the motivation is going to be really high this weekend, and the team is really looking forward to it.”

The first obstacle to achieving those goals comes in the form of a Georgetown team that has plummeted to the bottom of the conference. The Hoyas (13-15, 3-9) have fallen to the Irish in 10 straight meetings, but head into this Friday’s match coming off the heels of a big upset win over Cincinnati. Yet Brown said she is confident in her team’s ability to stay focused against a lesser team.

“Throughout the season we learned more and more about ourselves, and I think we’ve been able to make pretty significant improvements in areas that maybe earlier in the season we didn’t feel were as strong as they needed to be,” Brown said. “I think the focus of the team and intensity has been really good.”

Whatever the outcome on Friday may be, the Irish should have no trouble finding focus and motivation for Sunday’s match against South Florida (16-7, 8-4). The Bulls currently rank fourth in the conference standings, but more importantly, the meeting marks the last regular season conference game for the seniors.

“It’s our senior day,” Brown said. “They’re a very close class, they have great camaraderie, and they’re very, very committed to making this be just a great season. It’s just a tremendous class, a tremendous group.”

Seniors Serinity Phillips, Christina Kaelin and Jamel Nicholas have all garnered Big East Player of the Week honors this season, but each senior has contributed to Notre Dame’s success.

“To say that any of them that don’t play in the matches as much as the others aren’t as important is entirely false,” Brown said. “They all bring special things to the team. I think the attitude of all of them is great, and they all lead in different ways.”

Purcell Pavilion will host the final leg of the Irish’s journey to perfection, as the Irish take the court at 7 p.m. on Friday against Georgetown and at 2 p.m. on Sunday against South Florida.