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ND Volleyball: Notre Dame heads to Florida before NCAA Tournament

Chris Masoud | Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Following a narrow loss to Louisville in the Big East championship last weekend, the Irish face the task of bringing their best effort to the court when they face No. 15 Florida on the road Saturday.

Notre Dame (21-5, 14-0 Big East) fell to the Cardinals in five sets in the second round of the conference tournament, the fifth straight year the two teams have met in postseason play. Although disappointed by the outcome, Irish coach Debbie Brown said she believes her team hit the court ready to play.

“I think we actually played really well,” Brown said. “We came up against a team who’s on fire and has played extremely well. It’s just one of those really competitive matches, and we got edged out right at the end. We can definitely learn from it, and there are things that we can get better at.”

With that in mind, the Irish begin preparations for a Florida squad that has dismantled non-conference opponents.

The Gators (21-5, 15-4 Southeastern Conference) are coming off a convincing 3-1 win against No. 10 Kentucky, the division leader.

Brown is confident her team will make the necessary adjustments to succeed against Florida and future opponents.

“We weren’t as strong offensively as we’ve been in the past, so a couple things to tweak there,” Brown said. “We’re in the process of looking at the film and evaluating things and trying to get the team into the best postseason shape that we can in terms of taking care of all the little things. We still think we’re in a great place.”

While Notre Dame’s perfect Big East record did not translate into a conference championship, don’t expect Saturday’s game to have any lingering effects. The Irish followed up their last loss by rattling off 15 straight victories.

“I don’t think motivation has ever been an issue with the team,” Brown said. “I think it’s a highly motivated group, and I have every reason to believe that we’ll still be highly motivated. It’s an opportunity for us again to play a top 25 team, so that in itself is perfect for us. We also know that this is really important in terms of getting momentum going into the NCAA Tournament.”

The Irish recognize the postseason benefits they can gain from playing a demanding regular-season schedule.

“Playing Louisville this past weekend, who’s playing at a very high level right now, and obviously Florida playing at a high level, we know that to get into the Tournament you have to keep getting better and better,” Brown said. “We’ve consistently played at a higher level, we haven’t peaked, and we know that the best is still ahead of us.”