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ND Volleyball: ND picks up conference wins, loses to Hawaii

Conor Kelly | Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Irish stayed busy over fall break with four matches, notching Big East wins over DePaul and USF, but dropping a pair of non-conference matches to Hawaii. The wins push the Irish (12-8, 5-3 Big East) into a tie with Syracuse and USF for fifth place in the Big East.

“Overall I was pretty pleased with how our matches went over the break,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “I thought we got two strong victories, and we’re really raising our level of play.”

Led by freshman Toni Alugbue and her 16 kills, the Irish dispatched DePaul (4-16, 1-6 Big East) on the road 3-1 (25-13, 23-25, 25-20, 25-11). Algubue’s .448 hitting percentage played a large role in the Irish slugging an impressive .326 in the match. Freshman Jeni Houser contributed 10 kills, and sophomore Andrea McHugh chipped in with nine.

Brown attributed the success to a tactical change made before the match.

“We moved [junior Hilary Eppink] from the middle to the right side and went with a 6-2 formation,” Brown said. “We thought it gave us a chance to have four hitters up front and more effective blocking. I’m happy with how it worked, and it gives us another wrinkle to throw in when we need it.”

The Irish then traveled to Hawaii to take on the No. 8 Rainbow Wahine in a pair of matches. Despite breaking Hawaii’s streak of 17 straight sets won at home, the Irish fell in both contests, 3-0 (5-18, 25-23, 25-17), and 3-1 (25-15, 25-18, 22-25, 25-21).

Despite the losses, Brown said her team’s level of play improved consistently in the Aloha State.

“We went to Hawaii to win,” Brown said. “We always do, so in that sense we were disappointed. But overall, I feel that we are getting to where we need to be. We switched back to our normal set after the first match, and that’s definitely where we want to be most of the time.”

Finally, on Sunday the Irish took on USF at home decked out in pink uniforms for their “Dig Pink” match to raise money and awareness for the fight against breast cancer. Led by senior captains Kristen Dealy and Frenchy Silva, whose 20 and 17 digs respectively contributed to the 62 total digs for the team on the day, the Irish defense held the Bulls (9-12, 5-3 Big East) to a .107 hitting percentage on the way to a 3-0 (25-23, 25-17, 25-19) Irish victory.

“We actually didn’t substitute at all against South Florida,” Brown said. “We ran with the same people all the way through. It was a good to get a victory. We took care of what we needed to in-conference, so I’m pretty satisfied with our performance over the academic break.”

The Irish return to the court Oct. 29 against Connecticut in Storrs, Conn.

Contact Conor Kelly at

ckelly17@nd.edu