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ND Volleyball: Irish look to improve tournament resumes

Michael Todisco | Friday, November 5, 2010

As the end of the season approaches, a strong finish can solidify a squad’s seeding in both conference and NCAA play. Notre Dame has the chance to assert itself on both levels of play this weekend, as it takes on conference opponent Villanova Friday and No.13 Northern Iowa Sunday.

The Irish (15-9, 8-3 Big East) travel to Villanova Friday to battle the Wildcats (19-6, 7-3). The match will be pivotal for the final Big East standings, as Notre Dame and Villanova sit in fourth and fifth, respectively.

Although the Irish have already clinched a spot in the Big East Championships, the matchup against Villanova will be crucial in determining their seeding.

Notre Dame’s preparation for the contest against the Wildcats has focused both on scouting the opponent and making internal improvements.

“We’ve definitely watched a lot of film,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “One of Villanova’s strengths is serving, and they have a high amount of aces per game, so we practiced serve return this week. Also, we looked to shore up some of the things on our side of the ball, such as ball control.”

The Irish then return home Sunday to take on No. 13 Northern Iowa (22-2, 13-0 Missouri Valley Conference). Although the game is an out-of-conference match, Brown stressed that this game is a vital opportunity for her squad to prove itself on the national level.

“This is a chance for us to compete against a top team,” Brown said. “A win in this game would really enhance our chances for the NCAA tournament.”

The match against Northern Iowa will also be Senior Day for the Irish. Brown said she realizes that the match will be emotional for the senior class, and may provide extra motivation for her players to fight for a Notre Dame victory.

“It’s special because the players know it’s the last time to play at home with this group that they’ve gotten to know over four years,” she said. “There is always an added incentive to win on Senior Day, and end their time at Notre Dame on a positive note.”

Although the Northern Iowa game is important for the Irish, their focus this week has been on Villanova as conference success and seeding in the approaching conference tournament have taken precedence. Still, Brown and the Irish are looking forward to the challenge against a top team.

“Even though the Villanova game has been our top priority, we have looked at some Northern Iowa,” Brown said. “It will be a really challenging match, and we are really excited about it.”

The match at Villanova begins at 7 p.m. Friday, while the Senior Day match will be held Sunday at 2 p.m at the Purcell Pavilion.