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ND Volleyball: Team plays conference pair

Michael Todisco | Friday, October 8, 2010

Notre Dame (11-5, 4-0 Big East) continues their conference road swing this weekend as they travel to Louisville and No. 21 Cincinnati.

With victories at South Florida and Georgetown last weekend, the Irish currently are on a 19-game conference winning streak, the sixth longest in the nation.

The streak will be put on the line this weekend, as Louisville (8-5, 3-1 Big East) and Cincinnati (15-3, 4-0 Big East) are two of the strongest teams in the conference. The Bearcats sit tied with the Irish atop the Big East, while the Cardinals are in a three-way tie for third.

Irish coach Debbie Brown views the upcoming pair of games as a new challenge for her squad.

“The two games against Louisville and Cincinnati are definitely an increase in the level of competition we have been facing so far,” she said. “They are both really solid teams.”

Notre Dame kicks off the weekend on Saturday when they travel to Louisville. This Irish will have revenge on their minds against the Cardinals, who have knocked the Irish out of each of the last four Big East Championships.

On Sunday the Irish head to Cincinnati for a showdown between the only two undefeated squads left in the Big East, which should come as little surprise as both teams were expected to be at the top of the conference at the beginning of the season. Cincinnati was the unanimous decision by the Big East Coaches to win the conference while Notre Dame was selected to finish third.

Cincinnati’s attack is led by senior Stephanie Niemer. Niemer was selected by the coaches as the preseason Player of the Year and has won four straight Big East Player of the Week Honors.

Brown said that both Louisville and Cincinnati present a style of play that the Irish have yet to see this year.

“Both of these teams play a really physical style of volleyball,” she said. “They play high above the net, so we really have to focus on stopping their big hitters with our blocking.”

The Irish begin play at 10 a.m. at Louisville Saturday. The 5 p.m. match Sunday at Cincinnati will be nationally televised on ESPNU.