ND Volleyball: Conference opponents defeat Irish handily
Observer Staff Report | Sunday, November 13, 2011
The Irish spent the weekend on the road to finish the regular season, traveling to Marquette before heading to Syracuse for a match against the Orangemen. Despite strong efforts, the Irish fell in both conference matches, losing to the Golden Eagles 3-0 (25-15, 25-21, 25-17) and to Syracuse 3-1 (25-23, 26-24, 24-26, 25-16).
The Irish (15-11, 8-5 Big East) clinched the fifth seed in the conference. Syracuse entered the match against Notre Dame needing a victory to improve its playoff chances.
With six teams within one game of each other and contending for five spots, the Orangemen were able to clinch the fourth seed in the tournament with their victory over the Irish.
Pittsburgh claimed the last spot with an even conference record at 7-7. South Florida was left on the outside looking in as the ninth place team. Seton Hall and Villanova round off the tournament bracket.
On the verge of being swept down two sets in the third against the Orange, the Irish rallied to extend the match further with a 26-24 win before falling in the fourth by a count of 25-16. The result virtually assures a rematch between the two teams in the first round of the Big East tournament.
Senior captain Kristen Dealy spearheaded the Irish effort, posting 14 kills and 11 digs on the afternoon, while sophomore Andrea McHugh contributed 12 kills and four aces.
The top three teams in the Big East have separated themselves from the rest, as Louisville, Cincinnati and Marquette all finished at least four games ahead of fourth-seeded Syracuse.
The Golden Eagles lived up to the reputation their conference record suggests, dispatching Notre Dame in straight sets despite earning 10 kills from Irish freshman Jeni Houser. Marquette slugged at a .633 rate in the first set and never looked back, finishing at .385 on the day.
The Irish, who have won nine Big East Championship titles, now look toward the Big East tournament, which begins this weekend in Milwaukee, where they will seek revenge against the Orangemen.