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ND Volleyball: Purcell packed as Irish dominate West Virginia, Pittsburgh

Meaghan Veselik | Monday, September 27, 2010

Fans heard the phrase “Point Irish” plenty of times at Purcell Pavilion this weekend as Notre Dame took down both Pittsburgh and West Virginia in straight sets to close out their Big East opening weekend.

Notre Dame defeated the Mountaineers 3-0 (25-10, 25-19, 28-26) on Friday and Pittsburgh 3-0 (25-19, 25-19 and 25-14) on Sunday, to end a three-match losing streak with the two wins.

“Well it’s certainly a good start, and we know that the conference season is long and that there will be challenges in front of us,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “But it’s a great way to start and every player on the roster had an opportunity to get in at some point. So I think that’s good that we continue to develop our talent, and it’s great to be 2-0 at this point.”

The Irish (9-5), who were undefeated in the Big East regular season last year, are working to repeat the trend this year. Brown said the weekend was a strong start, especially for some of their freshmen, whose performances suggest an quick adjustment to collegiate competition.

Freshman outside hitter Andrea McHugh got her rookie conference season off to a strong start, posting 16 kills and 13 digs Friday night and coming back with nine more kills and seven digs Sunday. Seven of Friday’s kills came in the third set when Notre Dame was down 24-20 and came back to capture a 28-26 win. Fellow freshman middle blocker Sam Brown saw her first collegiate action Friday and ended the weekend with nine kills and five blocks. Freshman Sammie Brown had 58 assists, 8 digs, 3 kills, 2 blocks and a pair of aces in the two games.

Junior libero Frenchy Silva said the stats aren’t the only evidence of the impact the freshmen have made on the team either.

“I think it’s really fun to see them come along and play their own game,” Silva said. “Like Sam Brown, it’s the first time she started this weekend but she’s out there, she’s comfortable, she’s totally expressing her personality, her playing style. I think the more we play, the more experienced the freshman get, the more comfortable they get, the better things will be. So it’s really exciting to see them get comfortable and confident on the court.”

Irish coach Brown said the experience of the team’s upperclassmen also shone over the weekend as they managed to keep the team motivated and focused, especially when working to hold onto a lead.

“I think in the past we’ve had situations where we’ve had big leads and we’ve let teams kind of get back in it, and there was just a determination today to not let that happen and there was good execution,” she said.

Helping keep the win in sight at each match were junior outside hitter Kristen Dealy, senior middle blocker Kellie Sciacca and Silva. Dealy closed the weekend with 14 kills and 31 digs, including two kills at the 26-26 mark Friday night to close out the third set against West Virginia. Sciacca had 14 kills and a few block assists and Silva had 21 digs while also leading her team vocally on the court.

Sophomore Hilary Eppink had a strong Sunday performance with 12 kills and a dig to lead the offense.

The Irish will continue their Big East play next weekend at USF and Georgetown.