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ND Volleyball: Irish look for luck at Shamrock

Laura Coletti | Friday, August 31, 2012

After a challenging opening weekend on the road, the Irish are ready for their Purcell Pavilion home opener this weekend as they host the Shamrock Invitational.

Alabama-Birmingham, Buffalo and Eastern Kentucky will all compete during the weekend as part of the annual three-day round-robin tournament.

Notre Dame (1-2) faced two top-5 opponents last weekend in Nebraska and UCLA. Although the Irish dropped both of these decisions, they managed to sweep Saint Louis, their third opponent of the weekend, 3-0. Senior middle blocker Hilary Eppink said last weekend’s experience will hopefully carry over to strong performances this weekend.

“We went 1-2 [last weekend] and played some really tough teams, but I think it was good for us because we learned things and played some outside competition,” Eppink said. “It was a great experience, and we’re going to use that moving forward. We had a good week of practices, and that’s also going to carry into this weekend. Just knowing that we’re a good team, staying together, and communicating, we’ll take that moving forward.”

Some Irish performances last weekend stood out enough to earn individual accolades. Sophomore opposite side hitter Jeni Houser was named to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll for her efforts. She tallied 37 kills on .308 hitting for the weekend. Freshman libero Taylor Morey was named Big East Freshman of the Week when she collected 50 digs over the weekend in her first collegiate matches. Her 29-dig performance against UCLA put her in 15th place in school history for a single match.

“I think it’s really great for our team to be recognized in the Big East,” Eppink said. “Our goal is to win the Big East Regular Season title as well as the Big East Tournament. [Houser and Moray] are both outstanding players, and being recognized this week gets Notre Dame’s name out there and lets other teams know that we mean business.”

The Irish are looking to take their second straight Shamrock Invitational. Last season saw Notre Dame sweep Eastern Michigan, Idaho and Butler for a combined score of 9-3 on the weekend.

“We’ve been doing routine practices, and we’ve been practicing in the arena which is really nice because that’s where the matches are actually played,” Eppink said. “We’ve been getting used to the floor and our surroundings.”

Notre Dame will return to their home floor against Alabama-Birmingham at 7 p.m. Friday. The team will continue play against Buffalo at 7 p.m. on Saturday and will conclude the Invitational on Sunday against Eastern Kentucky at 2 p.m.

Contact Laura Coletti at lcoletti@nd.edu