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ND Volleyball: Irish use Europe trip to regain confidence

Alex Wilcox | Sunday, August 25, 2013

Notre Dame enters the year determined to outperform its early exit in the first round of the 2012 NCAA tournament, which brought its season to a conclusion at a 20-10 record. 

Irish coach Debbie Brown said she hopes the team’s preseason summer trip to Europe will help it accomplish that goal.

“I think last year really left a bad taste in our mouth because we had such a good season and then finished poorly,” Brown said. “This trip to Europe was just the perfect thing for us and for our team and to be able to regroup and play some really good competition. 

“I think what it did was allow us to enter the preseason with a sense of earned confidence, not false confidence. We saw how we fell off and I’m just really confident in the coaching staff and our players and our leaders that it won’t happen again.”

The team traveled across the continent, bonding and playing some of the best international competition. Brown said the trip benefited her team for many reasons.

“[The trip] was everything we hoped it would be,” she said. “The travel went really smoothly, [and] we got to see some amazing sights and play great competition. We played six extra matches and got better each time we played. At the end of it, we were exhausted, but we felt like we definitely gained a lot from it. The team really gained a lot in team cohesion and chemistry, and I just couldn’t be prouder of the team.”

The Irish will begin their first season in the ACC this year after leaving the Big East. Notre Dame will play 20 of its 31 total matches in conference play, an increase from the 15 conference matches it played in the Big East last year. While the transition will prove difficult, Brown said ultimately she is happy with the move and excited to play better competition.

“Top to bottom, [the ACC is] a stronger conference,” she said. “The RPI of the teams we’re playing is higher, so that subsequently will make our RPI higher as well. It’s a longer season, it’s a new experience, and we don’t know those teams and haven’t traveled to those cities. So it’s going to be a lot of new things, but there’s also a lot of excitement. When everything’s new, nothing gets boring, so we’re really looking forward to that.”

Even with the unknown that comes with switching conferences, Brown said she still has high expectations for her team, which is led by junior outside hitter Toni Alugbue and junior right side hitter Jeni Houser, who both earned honorable mention All-American honors a season ago.

“We have high expectations and we always do, whether it’s the beginning of the year or throughout,” Brown said. “When you have a lot of juniors and seniors, we feel like we’ll play a cleaner version of volleyball. Less unforced errors, smarter plays, smarter shots, and just seeing things happen in front of us better. I think that bodes well for us going into the season.”

The Irish open their season at the Blue Raider Bash against North Carolina on Friday in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Contact Alex Wilcox at awilcox1@nd.edu