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ND Volleyball: Team set to return for Invitational

By Conor Kelly | Friday, September 9, 2011

After a disappointing 0-2 finish at the Stanford Invitational in California last weekend, the Irish will try to rebound this weekend at home in the Golden Dome Invitational.

With her team set to take on Lipscomb, the University of Portland and Valparaiso, Irish coach Debbie Brown believes playing at home will help the Irish in a tournament in which taking anything less than three matches would be a disappointment.

“It’s going to be really nice to be back at the Joyce Center,” Brown said. “We will never use it as an excuse, but travel does wear on you. When it comes to playing at home, we’re on a mission.”

That mission would be to regain the winning ways of two weeks ago as the Irish (3-2) took their first three matches of the season, coasting to a sweep of the Shamrock Invitational and a 3-0 record. Brown hopes that last weekend’s hiccups against highly-ranked Stanford and St. Mary’s (Calif.) will prove to be just a slight setback over the course of the long season. Though two more weeks of matches separate the Irish from Big East play and the likes of Georgetown and Villanova, Brown is quick to point out that there is no preseason.

“You’ll get into trouble if you ever start looking ahead on your schedule, whether that be to Big East play, the NCAA tournament or anything else,” Brown said. “We have to take it one match at a time. Every one counts.”

While every opponent certainly has to be respected, Brown and the Irish are much more concerned with their own play, particularly with an offense that has struggled at times early this season. Asked what to expect out of the opposition this weekend, Brown was content to keep her focus on her own squad.

“We’re focusing on us more than on our opponents,” Brown said. “And that means improving our offense. We have a lot of work to do, but I’ve really liked a lot of what I’ve seen this week.”

Any discussion of performance on offense has to start with the duo of sophomore Andrea McHugh and freshman Jeni Houser. McHugh, reigning Big East rookie of the year, and Houser, named to the all-tournament team last weekend at Stanford, have registered 71 and 53 kills respectively this season to lead the team.

The team returns to the court this Friday at the Joyce Center against Lipscomb at 7 p.m.

Contact Conor Kelly at ckelly17@nd.ed