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ND Volleyball: Irish take two to reach 12

Meaghan Veselik | Monday, November 9, 2009

Notre Dame remained undefeated in conference play by beating Marquette Friday and Syracuse Sunday, running the team’s winning streak to 12 straight conference matches.

“We‘re pleased with the character of the team and coming back strong after losing the first set [in both matches],” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “We played much better in the second, third and fourth sets and came back to win.”

Notre Dame (18-4, 12-0 Big East) battled Marquette (16-12, 5-8) through 30 ties and 13 lead changes to win the match 3-1 (21-25, 2-18, 26-24, 25-13) in Milwaukee.

“Marquette played really well and set it up well in the first set,” Brown said. “I think we bring out the best in them, but were able to wear them down.”

Notre Dame’s blocking and kills have given them an advantage throughout the season, and once again aided in closing out Marquette. Senior outside hitter Serinity Phillips and freshman middle blocker Hilary Eppink each had eight blocks. Sophomore libero Frenchy Silva led all players with 21 digs while sophomore outside hitter Kristen Dealy added 15 and senior setter Jamel Nicholas 12.

Notre Dame was held to a season-low 15 points in the first set of its match at Syracuse Sunday, but the Irish rallied to sweep the Orange (19-10, 8-5) in the remaining sets for a 3-1 victory (15-25, 25-21, 25-17, 25-19) and hold onto their title as the lone undefeated team in the Big East conference.

“Syracuse played well in the first set and we didn’t,” Brown said. “But we were able to come back and get in a better rhythm.”

The Orange led the first set from the start, leading the Irish 8-4 until a kill from Sciacca helped bring it to 9-7, but it wasn’t enough to match Syracuse’s leading blocker Sarah Morton. Morton, who also leads the nation in rejections, finished the day with 10 kills and 12 blocks, and only eight errors on 24 swings.

Sciacca’s kills once again gave the Irish the jump they needed in the beginning of the second set to take the lead.

After four lead changes, Kaelin helped close the set with a kill as part of a 5-0 Irish streak.
Late kills from Dealy secured the third set for Notre Dame, and she also started the fourth set off strong with a kill and an ace. Syracuse led at 21-18, but successful kills from Kaelin closed out the match in Notre Dame’s favor.

“In both situations, it was a strong team effort,” Brown said. “We had people come off the bench in both matches and have them do what we needed them to do. This year we’re a lot more experienced, poised, and confident. It was just determination and consistent playing to win.”

The Irish return home to finish the regular season before the Big East championship on Nov. 20-22 at Louisville.

They will take on Georgetown at 7 p.m. Friday and South Florida at 2 p.m. Sunday at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.

“We still have another weekend in front of us, and have two more matches before [the Big East tournament] and we know that’ll be a challenge as well,” Brown said. “We set out a goal as a team to be undefeated in the regular season and are really motivated as well.”