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ND Volleyball: Irish end weekend in Denver undefeated

Michael Todisco | Monday, September 13, 2010

The Irish took first place at Denver’s Pioneer Classic this weekend, defeating Gonzaga, Jacksonville State and Denver for their first undefeated tournament since 2005.

“To sweep a weekend you have to show consistency and concentration,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “Winning three days in a row is very difficult. We didn’t let any distractions or fatigue set in.”

The Irish kicked off their weekend with a Friday night matchup against Gonzaga. Notre Dame took down the Bulldogs in convincing fashion, winning 3-0, (25-12, 25-15, 25-21). The attack was led by senior middle hitter Kelly Sciacca, who had 14 kills in only 21 attempts, for an impressive .619 hitting percentage.

After dropping the first set against Jacksonville State on Saturday, the Irish stormed back and won the next three sets to win 3-1 (18-25, 25-15, 25-11, 25-19). Notre Dame was deadly from the service line, with seven different players notching aces.

Notre Dame capped the weekend with a Sunday afternoon victory over tournament host Denver. The Irish took the match in straight sets, winning 3-0 (25-16, 25-17, 25-14).

Middle hitters Sciacca and Hilary Eppnick led the Irish offense all weekend, and both were named to the Denver Invitational All-Tournament team. Brown said Sciacca and Eppnick benefited from solid team play the entire weekend.

“When two middles hitters had the success that Kelly and Hilary this weekend, it is not just an individual effort,” Brown said. “The passing and setting was very solid this week, and we were consistently able to put them in position to get kills.”

Superb serving catalyzed Notre Dame’s undefeated weekend. Brown said that area had previously been an issue, but the Irish serving improved greatly this weekend.

“Even when we weren’t getting aces, we hit our spots and took teams out of their system,” Brown said. “It really limited our opponents offensively and put pressure on them over and over again.”

Freshman Andie Olsen made her first start this weekend for the Irish — a possible prelude of big things to come for the middle-hitter from Oakland, Calif.

“Andie had a really strong showing this weekend,” Brown said. “She allows us to open up our offense and is a strong hitter. If she is able to get comfortable on the court, she could really contribute this year.”

The Irish return home next weekend for the Notre Dame Invitational, their last tournament before Big East play begins.