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ND Volleyball: Irish set to open playoffs against USF

Laura Coletti | Friday, November 16, 2012

Playoff season has arrived, as the Irish will face off against South Florida this weekend in the opening round of the Big East tournament.

No. 3 Notre Dame (20-7, 13-2 Big East) is looking to regain its winning ways over the No. 6 Bulls (16-13, 7-8 Big East) after having its 11-match win streak snapped by Marquette last weekend. This is Notre Dame’s first 20-win season since 2009, and junior middle blocker and captain Andrea McHugh says that the team is still hungry for more. Notre Dame’s loss to the Golden Eagles caused the Irish to tie with Marquette for second place in the Big East regular season standings, and that loss will serve as motivation to the squad as they begin tournament play.

“Our loss to [Marquette] last weekend was disappointing but has pushed us to work harder and stay focused for this weekend,” McHugh said.

The Irish and the Bulls will be traveling to neutral host Marquette this weekend. McHugh said that with a change in significance comes a change in player mentality.

“Now that we are into the tournament, we have to focus on one team at a time and can’t look past anyone,” she said. “Ultimately, this is what we have been working towards for the whole season, so we have to do our part and leave it all on the court in order to be successful.”

Although tournament play is beginning, Irish coach Debbie Brown has continued to emphasize to the team that they should remember to have fun on the court.

“[Coach Brown has used] one word: grateful,” McHugh said. “We are all so blessed to be able to represent Notre Dame in the game that we love playing, so remembering to enjoy the moment while being grateful is something that is huge for us as a team.”

The Irish defeated the Bulls in a three-set sweep on Oct. 28th, and are looking for a similar outcome this time around.

“USF has a very strong offense along with great pin hitters,” McHugh said. “During practices this week, we have been emphasizing our serving and passing game along with having strong blocking moves so we can shut down their hitters.”

The winner of the matchup will go on to play the winner of No. 2 Marquette and No. 7 Pittsburgh on Sunday.

The match gets under way at 4:30 p.m. today in Milwaukee.

Contact Laura Coletti at lcoletti@nd.edu