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ND Volleyball: McHugh to focus on defense against Buckeyes

Joe Wirth and Laura Coletti | Friday, November 30, 2012

The Irish look to bounce back from their current three-game losing streak as they open up NCAA Tournament play on Friday against Ohio St.

Before their latest slide, the Irish were one of the hottest teams in the country. They had won 11 straight games and finished third in the Big East standings.

The Buckeyes will provide a formidable challenge. They are currently ranked no. 14 in the country and finished in fourth place in the Big 10.

Junior outside hitter Andrea McHugh said making the tournament is a great accomplishment, but the team’s work is far from finished.

“This is a step in the right direction,” McHugh said. “Making the tournament has been one of our goals this season, but we are not satisfied with just making it, we want to go deep into it.”

This season marks the first time the Irish have made the tournament since 2009. The current seniors were freshman on that team and their influence down the stretch of the season has helped the team get over the hump and into the tournament.

“Both our seniors, Marie [Roof] and Hilary [Eppink] are really proud of the team for making it to the NCAA’s and want to finish the season and their own careers on a high note,” McHugh said.

The Buckeyes have an upperclassmen-leaden and are led by senior Mari Hole who leads the team in kills with 331 and has a 4.36 kills per set ratio. Junior Kaitlyn Leary is also a key contributor with 243 total kills on the season and a 3.20 kills per set ratio.

“Ohio State is a very good team,” McHugh said. “They have a lot of experience and are dominant on the pins. It is going to be crucial for us to stop both their outsides and their talented right side.

“Because Ohio State is a dominant pin hitting team, we have been focusing on playing defense against the outside as well as setting up a solid double block on the pins.”

Although the season did not end the way they envisioned, McHugh said the Irish look at the tournament as a tremendous opportunity to make a name for themselves.

“We have nothing to lose,” McHugh said. “It is a great opportunity for us to upset teams and surprise a lot of people. It’s tournament time and anything can happen…go big or go home.”

The Irish will tipoff against the Buckeyes Friday at 5 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum on the campus of the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky.

Contact Joe Wirth at jwirth@nd.edu and Laura Coletti at lcoletti@nd.edu