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ND Volleyball: Milestone on the mind

MIchael Todisco | Friday, September 10, 2010

Notre Dame enters the weekend looking for three more wins, and Irish coach Debbie Brown is no stranger to winning volleyball games. She is in pursuit of a monumental achievement this weekend: her 450th win with the Notre Dame program.

Now in her twentieth season, Brown is 449-172 as leader of the Irish.

This weekend the Irish will travel to Denver, Colo. for three games at the Pioneer Classic after playing a similarly hectic schedule last weekend in Reno, Nev.

In Reno at the Nevada Invitational last weekend, the Irish won two of three matches, with victories over Belmont and Weber State, and a defeat at the hands of Nevada.

Notre Dame will wrap up their road swing this weekend in Denver, with matches against Denver, Jacksonville State and Gonzaga at the Pioneer Classic.

Irish coach Debbie Brown said she has been pleased with her team’s response to the challenges that come with travel.

“The team responds well to traveling and playing in different environments,” Brown said. “We are able to adapt well to the surroundings.”

This responsiveness and acute attention to detail, Brown said, can be paramount to success on the road.

“This week in Denver, we have to pay attention to little things, like the altitude change,” she said. “The thin air is a bit of a challenge; the ball has a tendency to float quite a bit more.”

Although Jacksonville State, Denver and Gonzaga will be challenging opponents, the Irish are focusing instead on their own side of the net this weekend.

“Our main goal is to implement all the things in practice that we have been working on and to focus on our game,” Brown said. “The hours of practice should translate into success against any opponent.”

This weekend also provides an opportunity to learn more about the team before conference play commences.

“We are learning what freshmen can do in matches and seeing which players are striving and which others are struggling,” Brown said. “It is great to just get everyone playing time and gain cohesion as a group,”

The team is also eager to avenge last week’s lone loss in Reno to the University of Nevada. The Irish fell in five sets (3-2) to narrowly miss their goal of an undefeated weekend.

“When your last match is a loss, you have an eagerness to get out on the court and prove yourself,” Brown said. “We won’t feel good with anything less than winning all three games this weekend. We want to win every tournament and we felt like could have and should have won last weekend.”

Though the Irish will be focusing on the games at hand, the looming milestone has given Brown cause for reflection.

“As with any milestone, I don’t think about it in terms of wins and losses but the people I interacted with: all the athletes and students I was fortunate enough to coach,” she said. “I feel blessed for the 20 years I spent at Notre Dame.”