ND Volleyball: Irish continue streak with wins
Conor Kelly | Monday, October 29, 2012
Notre Dame concluded a dominant and undefeated month of October with victories over Pittsburgh and USF on Friday and Sunday, respectively, and extended its winning streak to eight games in the Big East. The team’s last loss came Sept. 29 at home against Marquette.
Since then, the Irish (17-6, 10-1 Big East) have rattled off eight consecutive wins in the heart of their conference schedule, dropping just two sets in the process. Irish coach Debbie Brown said that the team’s challenging preseason non-conference schedule has been the most important factor in Notre Dame’s transformation from a young, promising group into a dominant Big East team.
While the Irish failed to knock off any of their three top-10 foes during the preseason, the experience has proved invaluable.
“It really all comes back to the preseason and the preparation that we put in,” Brown said. “We had as strong a schedule as you could imagine in non-conference. We then followed it up with playing the two strongest teams in our conference [Louisville and Marquette] right out the gate.”
Against Pittsburgh (14-12, 5-7), the Irish prevailed 3-1. Junior setter Maggie Brindock paced the Irish offense with 43 assists and a career-high eight kills and seven blocks, hitting .571 while controlling the Notre Dame attack. Sophomore outside hitter Toni Alugbue recorded a team-high 14 kills, while senior middle blocker Hilary Eppink notched 13. The Irish proved dominant on both sides of the net, outhitting the Panthers .320 to .110.
“We really allowed Maggie to be able to run an effective offense,” Brown said. “We used a lot of different hitters and different shots. We really were able to take advantage of their weaknesses.”
Despite the effort on Friday, Brown said the team was not totally happy with its defensive play, and resolved to do better against USF on Sunday.
“We had better passing against USF and the team made a concerted effort to play better defense,” Brown said of her team’s 3-0 victory over the Bulls (13-12, 5-7). “We accomplished those goals.”
On Dig Pink day at Purcell Pavilion, the Irish raised money and awareness for the fight against breast cancer and dispatched USF in straight sets. Notre Dame slugged at a .333 clip and held USF to just .119 hitting, while sophomore right side hitter Jeni Houser paced the team with 11 kills. Eppink contributed nine and Brindock notched 35 assists.
“We’re passing and receiving very well,” Brown said. “We’re freeing Maggie to make choices as to her sets. It really allows us to spread the ball around.”
With just four regular season matches remaining until the Big East tournament, Brown realizes that her team, tied with Marquette and Louisville atop the conference standings, needs to take its remaining matches to retain hopes of winning the regular season and grabbing the top seed for the conference tournament.
“We have pretty lofty goals as far as regular season champions and the Big East championships are concerned,” Brown said. “We need to win out, so it’s what we practice each day for. Each opponent is another step in the process.”
The Irish travel to Seton Hall on Saturday for a Big East matchup at 2 p.m.
Contact Conor Kelly at email@example.com