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ND Volleyball: No. 13 Northern Iowa, Villanova take down Notre Dame

Meaghan Veselik | Monday, November 8, 2010

Despite pushing themselves to the limit against each opponent, the Irish fell to Villanova 3-1 on Friday and No. 13 Northern Iowa 3-0 Sunday.

“Even though our team lost two matches this weekend anyone that saw either of our matches would say that we played pretty hard and aggressive,” freshman outside hitter Andrea McHugh said. “We probably played one of our better matches against Northern Iowa today because we were playing loose and having fun.”

“Playing loose and having fun” produced the highest-scoring three-set match in the 25-point scoring era of the program, as the Irish fell 3-0 (27-25, 27-25, 29-27) while honoring the team’s four seniors, Megan Dunne, Angela Puente, Kellie Sciacca and Stephanie Slatt.

The Panthers also defeated the Irish on senior day in 2004.

Despite falling twice over the weekend, the Irish (15-11, 8-4 Big East) refuse to get discouraged this late in the season.

“We know, especially after playing Northern Iowa, that we can compete at a really high level and that we have to maintain that level going into the [Big East] tournament if we want to be successful,” sophomore middle blocker Hilary Eppink said.

The Irish offense faced one of its toughest individual opponents yet in Wildcat libero Kim Maroon. As Notre Dame’s kill leader, McHugh found this especially frustrating.

“Villanova is a great defensive team, with a very talented libero that doesn’t let the ball fall very often,” she said. “Especially as an outside hitter, it was frustrating trying to find a place where I could hit and score.”

Against such stiff competition, Eppink felt that the team worked to adjust by “taking care of the little things on our side of the net and making every contact better than the last.”

Although Notre Dame displayed some of its weaknesses, it had some of its strongest statistical performances in each match. Against Villanova (21-6, 9-3), McHugh, Sciacca and junior outside hitter Kristen Dealy each tallied 12 kills, while Eppink added eight. Dealy also contributed a total 34 digs, followed by junior libero Frenchy Silva, who chipped in 25.

The impressive statistics continued at home against the Panthers (24-2, 14-0 Missouri Valley), as three Irish players had 12 or more kills and three had nine or more digs. McHugh led the squad with 12 kills and 16 digs, followed closely by Dealy’s 14 kills and 11 digs and Eppink’s 14 kills.

Notre Dame heads into the final two matches of its conference season next weekend, as it travels to Rutgers and Seton Hall on Nov. 13 and 14 with the hopes of ending the season on a high note before the Big East championships commence on Nov. 19.