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ND Volleyball: Conference title quest kicks off

Michael Todisco | Friday, November 19, 2010

The Irish will take on Villanova today at the University of Pittsburgh in the first round of the Big East Championship, with postseason hopes on the line.

The Irish are seeded fifth while the Wildcats hold the four seed.

The team is coming off a successful last weekend of play, where it swept through its final two Big East opponents, Rutgers and Seton Hall. Irish coach Debbie Brown said she believes her team is looking strong going into the conference championship.

“We have been in a good rhythm,” she said. “We have executed well, performed well statistically, and our injured players have been nursed back to health. We feel good as a team.”

Historically, the Irish have dominated Villanova. Notre Dame was victorious in each of the first 16 meetings between the two squads, but have since lost three of the last four matches.

Notre Dame last faced Villanova on Nov. 5, when the Irish fell in four games to the Wildcats, which was the team’s final Big East loss of the year. After a furious comeback to win the first set, the Irish dropped the final three to fall (3-1 (23-25, 26-24, 26-24, 25-18) on Villanova’s home court.

Although Villanova scored a convincing victory in the first meeting, Brown said the Irish had room to improve.

“In our first meeting, we didn’t feel like we played our best,” she said. “There are definitely things we can do to improve the result.”

The game was marked by an outstanding performance by junior outside hitter Kristen Dealy who, along with 12 kills, recorded 34 digs, a career high and the most by an Irish player since 2006. However, the Irish offense was blocked, hitting only .131 for the game.

Brown said her team is prepped to make adjustments to take down the Wildcats this time around.

“We played really good defense but just not generate offense, specifically transition offense,” Brown said. “We focused on improving those elements of our game, and we feel like we got a lot better.”

A postseason berth for Notre Dame hangs in the balance of the Big East tournament as the winner of the Big East tournament receives an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

When asked what her team needed to do in the Big East tournament to qualify for the NCAA’s, Brown’s response was automatic.

“I think we need to win it,” she said.

The Irish and the Wildcats face off today at 10 a.m. in the Fitzgerald Field House at the University of Pittsburgh.