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ND Volleyball: Irish take two of three

CONOR KELLY | Monday, September 17, 2012

In their final tune-up tournament before the start of Big East play, the Irish took two victories in three matches at the Golden Dome Invitational, but the loss to Loyola Marymount on Saturday afternoon will stick with the team going forward.

While the failure to get three wins at home was disappointing for Irish coach Debbie Brown, she said she was impressed with how her team bounced back and she feels good going into the Big East season.

“We’re disappointed because we felt like we could have had three victories, but to take two out of three from those teams isn’t bad,” Brown said. “It puts us in a good spot going forward.”

Notre Dame (7-5) began its Golden Dome slate taking on Xavier on Friday and eked out a five-set victory, putting away the pesky Musketeers 3-2 (25-19, 18-25, 25-18, 28-30, 15-6). The Irish took the first, third and fifth sets, but the match was highlighted by the marathon fourth in which Xavier (7-7) clawed back from a late deficit to force continued play. The teams traded points until the Musketeers finally took two in row to win the set. Notre Dame’s frustration was short-lived, however, as the Irish took care of business easily in the fifth and decisive set.

“That fifth set was about the only thing pretty about that whole match,” Brown said. “I liked how the girls stepped up and took care of business.”

Junior setter Maggie Brindock tallied 47 assists in the victory.

On Saturday, the Irish took on Loyola Marymount (8-4) but struggled mightily hitting the ball on their way to being outslugged in hitting percentage by a mark of .333 to .157. The Lions defeated the Irish four sets, finishing with 17 blocks. Notre Dame also committed 27 attack errors.

“We really didn’t play well at all, and that’s credit to Loyola because they really did,” Brown said. “They hit .500 for the first two sets, and we just weren’t effective on either side of the net.”

Despite losing the previous day, the Irish came out strong Sunday, defeating Kansas (11-2) in four sets and snapping the Jayhawks’ nine-match winning streak. After dropping a close first set, Notre Dame took the next three all by the narrowest of margins – winning each by two points – thanks largely to sophomore outside hitter Toni Alugbue, whose 20 kills, 10 digs and four blocks paced the Irish.

“The resilience of our team really showed today,” Brown said. “We were so disappointed after not playing well against LMU, but we were completely focused and executed well. They had to show a lot of poise in tough situations.”

The Irish now begin Big East play Friday at Cincinnati, followed by Louisville on the road Sunday.

“We’ve prepared with the right competition,” Brown said. “We’ll be ready to go.”

The Irish and Bearcats square off Friday at 7 p.m. in Cincinnati.

Contact Conor Kelly at ckelly17@nd.edu