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ND Volleyball: Teams to test Irish win streak

Joe Wirth | Friday, November 2, 2012

The Irish will put their eight-match winning streak on the line this weekend as they travel to the Garden State for matches against Seton Hall and Rutgers.

Notre Dame (17-6, 10-1 Big East) is coming off of a home-weekend sweep of Pittsburgh and South Florida, which moved them into a tie for first place in the Big East. Despite this position, Irish coach Debbie Brown does not think the top ranking adds any pressure to her players, nor does she think it gives any added motivation to their opponents.

“I think teams are always motivated to play us,” Brown said. “We generally have a pretty big target on our back and we know teams will bring their best when they play us.”

The games against the Scarlet Knights (17-9, 3-8) and Pirates (17-7, 5-6) represent the second-to-last weekend for Big East play and a regular season conference championship is not far-fetched for the Irish.

Brown said her players are aware of their success, but she wants them to stay focused on the task at hand.

“[Winning a conference championship] has been one of our major goals since the beginning of the season to win the regular season championship for the conference,” Brown said. “We have played steady throughout the month of October and we continue to just take it one match at a time. To look beyond that at this time would be a mistake we just want to take the challenge that each team brings.”

Seton Hall and Rutgers enter this weekend’s play in sixth and 11th respectively in the Big East, but despite their low rankings, each team will give the Irish a fight.

The Scarlet Knights boast one of the best freshmen in the Big East in middle blocker Sarah Schmid. She leads the team in kills with 332 and has a 3.25 kills per set ratio. Senior middle blocker Alex Jones is another standout for Rutgers. She is second on the team with 275 total kills and has a 2.70 kills per set ratio.

A twin sister duo has led the Pirates and caused havoc in the Big East all year. Sophomores Stacey Manthorpe and Shelbey Manthorpe are first and second on the team in kills. Stacey leads the team with 277 and Shelbey is second with 201.

“Seton Hall and Rutgers are both fighting to qualify for the Big East tournament, where the top eight in the standings go,” Brown said. “They are both balanced teams with good young talent.  We know we will see good volleyball from both teams.”

In addition to taking on the Rutgers and Seton Hall on the volleyball court this weekend, the Irish will also have to contend with Mother Nature as both schools are rebounding from Hurricane Sandy’s path of destruction in New Jersey.

“Another huge challenge for us is the travel and accommodations for the weekend,” Brown said.  “As of now, we still don’t have hotel accommodations because of the storm. Our original hotel is underwater and without electricity and we haven’t been able to find other availability within one-and-a-half hours of the campuses.”

As of Friday evening, the games are set to be played according to schedule. The Irish will take on the Pirates on Saturday at 2 p.m. and will then travel to Piscataway, N.J., to take on the Scarlet Knights on Sunday at 2 p.m.

 

Contact Joe Wirth at jwirth@nd.edu