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ND Volleyball: Irish to host Golden Dome Invitational

By Conor Kelly | Friday, September 14, 2012

After an opening nine matches that would rival most any other in terms of difficulty, the Irish have one more opportunity to make an out-of-conference statement this weekend as Xavier, Loyola Marymount and Kansas descend on the Joyce Center for the Golden Dome Invitational.

It will be the last weekend tournament before the Irish open their Big East schedule Sept. 21 at Cincinnati.

Though the Irish (5-4) have taken on four top-20 teams so far this fall, Irish coach Debbie Brown said now is the time to put up the wins that go such a long way to determining RPI and eventual NCAA tournament selection.

“It’s really important now to get victories, and we can’t make apologies for our schedule,” Brown said. “RPI is the magic formula, calculating your winning percentage, your opponents’ and your opponents’ opponents. So these preseason games are actually very important.”

Of Notre Dame’s three opponents, Kansas (9-1) has gotten out to the best start. The Jayhawks’ only loss came at Arkansas in the team’s only road tilt of the season so far. Xavier sports a 7-4 record while Loyola Marymount boasts a winning mark as well at 6-3.

“This is going to be a really good tournament. These are all strong and well-respected teams,” Brown said. “Kansas has obviously gotten off to the best start, but Xavier is always competitive and fast defensively as well. Nothing will be

The Irish have gotten some fantastic individual performances turned in by the likes of junior captain and right side hitter Andrea McHugh, sophomore opposite side hitter Jeni Houser, sophomore right side hitter Toni Alugbue and freshman libero Taylor Morey, but they have yet to translate into victories against the highly ranked teams on Notre Dame’s schedule. The goal, Brown said, is not only to take sets from top teams but to beat them.

“It really comes down to having the composure and poise when it’s crunch-time and in high pressure situations,” Brown said. “We’ve felt like we’ve had these teams in a good spot during some of our losses, but I think we let them off the hook. We’re still developing that chemistry and personality.”

One development that could tear the spotlight away from the action on the court this weekend is the highly publicized move of Notre Dame’s Olympic sports to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). The Irish have strong historical ties to a number of teams in the ACC, having played Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Boston College and Miami when all were still members of the Big East. Brown said that the switch will be to a strong and well-supported volleyball conference.

“We’re really excited about the move,” Brown said. “There are really strong teams, and it is a conference that is committed to volleyball in terms of allotted scholarships and full staffs. And though we haven’t had anything continuous, we have a strong history of playing ACC teams.”

For now, however, Brown and the Irish are focused on this weekend.

“We’re getting better all the time,” Brown said. “It’s just a matter of coming out this weekend at home and executing well and coming away with wins.”

The Irish take the court against Xavier at 7 p.m. Friday at the Joyce Center.

Contact Conor Kelly at