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ND Volleyball: ND heads to Madison for tourney

Cory Bernard | Friday, September 16, 2011

With Big East play beginning next weekend, the Irish have two matches left to bolster their non-conference résumé. Standing in their way are two challenging opponents.

Notre Dame (5-3) will take on Western Michigan (8-1) tonight and Wisconsin (6-3) Saturday at the InnTowner Invitational in Madison, Wis.

Irish coach Debbie Brown knows the Western Michigan and Wisconsin programs well, and said both will challenge her squad.

“Both schools have very strong programs, but in different ways,” she said.

According to Brown, the Broncos perennial success in the Mid-American Conference stems from great ball control and fundamentals.

“Western Michigan is a smaller team — a little undersized — but they are scrappy,” Brown said. “They have great ball control and play great defense. They always do really well in the MAC.”

The Badgers, on the other hand, hail from the Big Ten, and, as expected from a large conference school, possess some impressive athletes. Brown said Wisconsin’s offense will be a concern for the Irish come Saturday.

“Wisconsin plays higher above the net, they’re bigger and rely more on their power and their offense,” she said. “They are going to be a challenge for us.”

Brown said she likes her team’s chances against both squads this weekend, but cannot yet determine which style suits her team’s play at this point in the season.

“It’s a little too early to know,” Brown said. “I think we’re in between the two styles [of Western Michigan and Wisconsin]. We can rally, we can dig well and we play pretty well above the net.”

In order for the Irish to emerge victorious at the InnTowner Invitational, they will have to improve their serving. Service errors cost Notre Dame dearly at times during the Golden Dome Invitational last weekend.

Brown said her squad focused on cleaning up its serves during recent practices.

“There has been a special emphasis on serving this week,” she said. “We ordinarily serve a lot in practice, but we’ve been doing a drill where we hit three serves in a row. When we get a mini-run going with a good serve, we want to work on keeping it going a little longer.”

Tonight’s action at the InnTowner Invitational starts at 5 p.m. Saturday’s match will begin at 7 p.m.

Contact Cory Bernard at cbernard@nd.edu