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ND Volleyball: Much still ahead for Irish

Chris Masoud | Tuesday, November 17, 2009

With wins over Georgetown and South Florida this weekend, the Irish accomplished two of their primary goals this season: an outright Big East regular-season title and an undefeated conference record.

But as Notre Dame heads into tournament play, its two biggest goals still loom ahead.

“It’s not satisfying. Obviously we feel good about the things we’ve done, but we’re not even close to being finished,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “There’s an urgency to still accomplish a lot more this year. We’re looking forward to the [Big East] tournament and we’re looking forward to the NCAA tournament, and we have to just take it one match at a time.”

Notre Dame is only the second team in conference history to finish the regular season undefeated since the league expanded the schedule from 12 to 14 games. Brown acknowledges that her players’ work ethic and determination have led to their success.

“The consistency that it takes to be able to do that throughout the season is pretty tremendous, so I’m just really proud of the team and the effort they put forth each time we took the court,” Brown said. “We really brought out the best in the other teams. They really get up to play us, and the composure we had at times and the way we followed through was really good to see.”

Heading into the season, many Irish fans expected the talented cast of seniors to pave the way toward a conference title. And while the senior class has led the squad through both performance and leadership, the exceptional play of the underclassmen has many fans turning their heads.

Backing up her outstanding rookie campaign, sophomore outside hitter Kristen Dealy finished second on the team in total kills with 265, good for a 3.27 kills per set average.

Junior middle blocker Kellie Sciacca led the team at the net, racking up 20 of her 83 total blocks unassisted. And sophomore libero Frenchy Silva rounded out the defense with 268 digs for a 3.44 average.

Brown said the team would not find itself sitting atop the Big East and in excellent position for the NCAA Tournament were it not for the contributions of the younger players.

“You can’t go through a season like that without having a great practice environment and everybody really pushing and making each other better,” Brown said. “Certainly the younger players that have had pretty important roles have stepped up and done a great job. We have good backups at each of the positions, so it’s been a total team effort.”

Although the numbers point to the contrary, Brown is convinced her team needs to improve if the Irish hope to secure tournament titles.

“We do know that there are still areas that we can get better, and going into the Big East Championship, the one thing that works in our favor is that we’ve played each of these teams one time now,” Brown said. “We can go back and really study what we did last time, and make some adjustments. That part of it is really challenging and fun, and we’re looking forward to it.”