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ND Volleyball: ND splits pair of Big East games

Conor Kelly | Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Irish traveled to the east coast for two matches over the weekend, taking on Connecticut and St. John’s.

In what Irish coach Debbie Brown has described as a disappointing Big East season thus far for her team, the weekend proved to be a microcosm of the squad’s frustration as the Irish (13-9, 6-4 Big East) fell in a five-set heartbreaker to Connecticut 3-2 (24-26, 25-20, 25-22, 22-25, 16-14) before defeating the Red Storm 3-1 (25-19, 17-25, 25-22, 25-20) in Queens, New York.

Brown saw the Irish lose three match points Saturday in the deciding fifth set as a spirited Connecticut team prevailed. With the score 14-11 in favor of the Irish, a series of strong plays by Connecticut (13-12, 3-7) and miscues by Notre Dame helped the

Huskies reel off five straight points on their way to victory.

“Those were some good plays by UConn and some miscommunication on our part,” Brown said. “They were a team that was on fire to get a win. It was that kind of day. We struggled to get into any rhythm.”

Senior Kristen Dealy led the Irish with 15 kills and 16 digs on the day. Freshman Jeni Houser added 13 kills while the Irish offense ran primarily through sophomore setter Maggie Brindock, whose 39 assists led the team.

“Everybody was really disappointed against UConn,” Brown said. “We talked specifically about strong starts and strong finishes. That’s something we really struggled with on Saturday.”

Less than 24 hours later, the Irish recovered from the loss at Connecticut and dismissed last-place St. John’s (10-17, 1-9) in four sets. Though Brown acknowledged her team could play better, she said her team’s play in the third set was a sign of the team’s resilience. Trailing 21-11 in the third set, the Irish clawed back to take the set and a 2-1 lead that they would not relinquish.

“That series was huge for us,” Brown said. “It’s much harder to be down 2-1 than up 2-1. We don’t want to be in that situation in the first place, but that’s the type of play our team is capable of.”

With four matches remaining before the start of the Big East tournament, the Irish sit tied with Syracuse at fifth in the conference.

“We’ve been pretty disappointed with our play so far this year,” Brown said. “We’ve lost some matches that we’ve had every opportunity to win. But we have chances to turn it around. We want to give ourselves an opportunity to play in the Big East tournament.”

The Irish return to the court against Seton Hall on Nov. 5 at the Purcell Pavilion.

Contact Conor Kelly at ckelly17@nd.edu