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ND Volleyball: Irish finish season on home court

Cory Bernard | Thursday, November 3, 2011

After weathering a disappointing conference loss and a freak snowstorm, the Irish are looking forward to playing their final Big East games in the friendly confines of Purcell Pavilion.

Last weekend, Notre Dame (13-9, 5-4 Big East) fell to Connecticut in five sets before salvaging their trip East with a 3-1 victory over St. Johns. In between, the team bus had to navigate the same storm that left over 2 million East Coast residents without power.

Irish coach Debbie Brown said her team is relieved to be finishing the regular season at home against Seton Hall and Rutgers.

“I think [playing on our home court] helps for sure, especially knowing that it’s our last home weekend,” she said. “We want to finish strong for our seniors, and it’s nice finishing our season here. It’s nice not having to sit on planes and in airports — and driving through a blizzard. The last couple games we’ve had a good crowd, so hopefully the atmosphere will be great — that’s the reason most teams like to play at home.”

In order to end the season on a high note, the Irish must first take down the Pirates (14-11, 5-4) on Saturday and the Scarlet Knights (8-19, 1-9) on Sunday. Brown said despite Seton Hall’s inconsistencies this season, they will present a challenge for Notre Dame. In particular, she mentioned Pirates senior opposite side hitter Meghan Matusiak and freshman setter Shelbey Manthorpe.

“We’ve both been inconsistent — some really good matches, but then uncharacteristically poor ones,” Brown said of the Irish and the Pirates. “They are a pretty talented team. They have a very good opposite side hitter and overall they’re pretty balanced in their attack.

“They depend a little more on their outside and right side than their middle, so they’re not quite as balanced as what we have, but that’s one of the things they’ve been able to use. Also, their freshman setter does a good job of finding the hot hitter.”

Through the ups and downs of the season, Brown said senior outside hitter Kristen Dealy has been a rock for her team. Still recovering from offseason surgery, Brown said Dealy is hitting her peak at the right moment.

“[Dealy] has definitely helped stabilize the team,” Brown said. “Because of the shoulder, we knew she would get stronger as the season went on. She has seen more and more of her power coming back each match. She’s hitting shots we haven’t been used to seeing from her just in time for our last weekend.”

Notre Dame’s match against Seton Hall begins at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Irish will play Rutgers on Sunday at 1 p.m.