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ND Volleyball: Irish fall in Big East semis

Michael Todisco | Monday, November 22, 2010

The Irish fought for their postseason lives at the Big East Championships this weekend, defeating Villanova in the quarterfinals before falling to Cincinnati in the semifinals.

Irish coach Debbie Brown said the Irish needed to win the conference tournament in order to earn a spot in the NCAA Championships, which was the team’s ultimate goal. Although the squad fell short of a conference title, Brown said she was still proud of her team’s performance.

“Our goal wasn’t just to beat Villanova,” Brown said. “We wanted to win the tournament and advance to the NCAA’s. Still, we made so many improvements I was really happy with the progress we showed.”

Notre Dame (18-12, 10-4 Big East), the fifth-seeded team in the tournament, defeated fourth-seeded Villanova (23-7, 11-3) Friday 3-1 (25-20, 25-17, 21-25, 25-14) in the opening round of the tournament. With the win, the Irish earned a berth in the conference semifinals for the 16th consecutive season.

Junior Kristen Dealy and sophomore Hillary Eppinck each had 15 kills to lead the Irish attack. Brown attributed the team’s success on Friday to its offensive improvements since the last meeting against the Wildcats, where the Irish fell 3-1 on Nov. 5.

“It was good to have played them recently,” Brown said. “The game was so fresh in our minds, so we made good adjustments to our offense, which wasn’t good in our first meeting.”

On Saturday, the Irish met top-seeded Cincinnati (28-5, 13-1) with a trip to the finals on the line. The team fell 3-0 (25-23, 25-22, 25-19) to the Bearcats in what proved to be a back-and-forth, tightly contested affair.  Freshman Andrea McHugh led the offense for Notre Dame with 16 kills.

Brown said that her effort was once again a function of the team’s improvement since a 3-0 loss on Oct. 10 to the Bearcats.

“I was really proud how [the] team battled,” Brown said. “We had opportunities to take games 1 and 2, and put ourselves in great position compared to last time we played. We were markedly better, and I was proud of improvement over the season.”

Notre Dame concludes its season on Nov. 26, when the team heads to California to take on Long Beach State.