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Volleyball: ND heads west for USC Classic

By Laura Coletti | Friday, September 7, 2012

The Irish head west this weekend for their second road tournament of the year, the USC Classic. In its second road series of the season, Notre Dame will take on No. 5 USC, No. 17 San Diego, and Cal Poly.

Notre Dame (4-2) will open the weekend against Cal Poly (1-4) on Friday before taking on the Toreros (3-1) and the Trojans (6-0) on Saturday.

Junior captain and right side hitter Andrea McHugh said for the Irish this weekend is business as usual.

“We are preparing like any other weekend, but really focusing on our serving and out-of-system play,” she said. “We aren’t doing anything too [specifically] related to our opponents this weekend, but we are focusing on having good first touches and cleaning up our errors.”

The Irish are coming off a successful home opening weekend, during which they won the annual Shamrock Invitational with a perfect 3-0 record. With two ranked teams at the USC Classic, McHugh said she is expecting this weekend to be a good challenge.

“The level of competition is going to be pretty high this weekend,” McHugh said. “We are playing two top-20 teams, [San Diego] and USC, and then another good Cal Poly team. It is not going to be easy by any means, but we are ready for the challenge.”

Even though the squad is pleased with its home opening performance, the Irish realize they have room for improvement, McHugh said. The team is focusing on improving its energy throughout a match and being more consistent in its play.

“Coming off of a weekend with three wins is definitely something to feel good about, but speaking for the team and myself, we are definitely not satisfied with our play this past weekend and still have a lot to prove to the volleyball community,” she said. “We have set so many goals as a team and also individually this season, and while some individual goals may have been met, our team goals are continuous throughout the season.

“We are so excited for this season, and can’t wait to face our opponents in Southern California and achieve some of the goals we set as a team.”

Notre Dame has received outstanding performances recently from some of their younger players. Sophomore right side hitter Toni Alugbue and sophomore opposite side hitter Jeni Houser have received Big East weekly honors, and freshman libero Taylor Morey earned Big East Freshman of the Week honors after the opening weekend of the season. McHugh said junior middle blocker Andie Olsen and senior opposite side hitter Marie Roof have also made key contributions to the team.

“Andie Olsen has been playing great out of the middle,” she said. “She has been really explosive and dynamic out of transition and always comes away with a block at just the right time. Marie Roof stepped into middle this past weekend and played extremely well. She is so quick in reading and setting up the block.”

The Irish will take on Cal Poly at 7:30 p.m. on Friday to begin the weekend, before squaring off with San Diego and USC on Saturday.