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ND Volleyball: Houser paces team in California

Laura Coletti | Monday, September 10, 2012

The Irish had a competitive weekend as they defeated Cal Poly on Friday night and dropped two tough matches to No. 17 San Diego and No. 5 USC on Saturday at the USC Classic Tournament in Los Angeles.

Notre Dame (5-4) came out strong against the Mustangs (1-7) and were led by sophomore opposite side hitter Jeni Houser’s 17 kills and junior tri-captain and setter Maggie Brindock’s 31 assists. It was Houser’s seventh double-digit kill performance of the season. Brindock also chipped in nine digs and six kills over the three sets. The Irish were dominant as they held Cal Poly to a .000 attack percentage over the last two sets, and the win extended theNotre Dame’s team’s unbeaten streak to four games.

After their stellar performance against the Mustangs, the Irish turned their attention to two top-20 opponents. While both matches were competitive, they fell short against both the Toreros (5-2) and the Trojans (9-0). Junior captain and right-side hitter Andrea McHugh said the squad was not happy with the outcome of these matches.

“Overall, coaches and teammates included, we were pretty dissatisfied with the outcome of this tournament this weekend,” McHugh said. “We didn’t just come to Southern California to beat Cal Poly – We came to beat top-20 teams. It’s a good sign that we can hang with top-20 teams, but that’s not our goal. Our goal is to beat highly-ranked teams and most importantly get that [win].”

The loss to San Diego snapped Notre Dame’s win streak, which had been its longest since September 2011. The Irish played the Toreros tough, forcing a decisive fifth set for the first time this season. McHugh said playing a match through five sets requires a special kind of mentality.

“The toughest part about playing five-set matches is staying mentally and physically tough, because by the fifth set, your body tends to slow down a little bit,” she said. “Personally, I love playing five-set matches because I love playing in pressure situations.”

While the Irish were unable to take the Trojans to five sets, they managed to pull ahead in the first two sets and forced USC to fight back. McHugh said that there were good things to take away from both matches on Saturday, but that there were aspects of play the Irish need to work on.

“We hit really well against high-caliber teams and improved our out-of-system play,” McHugh said. “Some of the things we still need to work on, though, are finishing games, consistently communicating on and off the court and making fewer errors altogether.”

The Irish will look to bounce back when they host the Golden Dome Invitational next weekend.

Contact Laura Coletti at lcoletti@nd.edu