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ND Volleyball: Team returns to NCAA stage

Laura Myers | Thursday, December 3, 2009

When the Irish take the floor against Ohio University Friday, they will be playing in their first NCAA tournament since 2006.

The six seniors on the 2009 squad were freshmen then, when the Irish lost in the first round to Wisconsin. The underclassman on this year’s team, however, are headed to the tournament for the first time.

“We’re all just excited to show how good we can be,” sophomore outside hitter Kristen Dealy said.

Underclassmen have made a big impact on this year’s team. Dealy and junior middle blocker Kellie Sciacca have both started 26 of the 27 matches this season and have played 93 and 91 total sets, respectively. The only match they did not start was the senior game against South Florida.

Dealy is currently second on the team with 3.30 kills per set and 93 total points. She is also tied for first in service aces with 23. Sciacca is second on the team with 90 total blocks.

Sophomore libero Frenchy Silva and junior outside hitter Stephanie Slatt have also seen significant playing time this season. Silva leads the team on defense with 3.42 digs per set and 308 total digs. Slatt, who specializes mostly in service, has 12 aces on the season.

Dealy said preparation this week has been different than it has been for regular season games.

“We talked about it on Tuesday and just made sure we’re all really focused. It’s a really fun atmosphere.”

The Irish (21-6) will take on Ohio (26-6) Friday in Ann Arbor, Mich., and the winner of that game will play the winner of No. 13-seed Michigan and Niagara Saturday.

The rest of the bracket includes No. 4-seed Stanford, Long Island, St. Mary’s (Calif.) and California-Santa Barbara.

Notre Dame has lost its past two games, only its second losing streak all season. Before that, they had won 14 straight.

“I feel like with the last two losses, [the tournament] is a way to start fresh,” Dealy said.

She said that although the seniors have been to the NCAAs before, they do not talk about it with the underclassmen.

“We try not to talk too much about the past,” Dealy said. “But they’re just really excited and their energy feeds down to everybody.”

Dealy said that although the underclassmen are excited about their first tournament, the Irish will need to play the same way they have all season.

“It should be a challenge,” she said, “but I feel like if everybody connects like we should connect, like how we have been the whole season, we should be really successful.”