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Notre Dame opens ACC slate

Conor Kelly | Friday, September 27, 2013

After four preseason tournaments spanning a month, the Irish begin their inaugural season in the ACC as they travel to North Carolina and North Carolina State for games Friday and Sunday.
With Notre Dame at 6-5 heading into conference play, Irish coach Debbie Brown said her team is ready for new challenges.
“We’re very much excited,” Brown said. “We’re jumping in with two feet, playing North Carolina, the top team in the conference, right away. We’re looking forward to new environments and playing new teams.”
The Tar Heels will be one of the most formidable opponents the Irish face all year, having dropped just four sets on their way to a 9-0 record. Led by Serbian graduate student outside hitter Jovana Bjelica’s 118 kills, North Carolina has hit an outstanding .254 on the year.
“The biggest thing for UNC is that they’re not making unforced errors, and they’re forcing their opponents into making them,” Brown said. “They have good defense, a balanced offense and great chemistry. They’re not just relying on one person to kill you.”
The Irish faced the Tar Heels in their first match of the season at the Blue Raider Bash in Murfreesboro, Tenn., falling 3-0. The Irish managed just 15 points in each set on their way to being swept, but Brown said her team is playing much better than they were at the beginning of the year.
“Even in our two losses last weekend [to Georgia and Kansas], we’ve been playing way better and reducing unforced errors,” Brown said. “The way we played against UNC the first time and how we’ll play them now are different.”
The Irish have struggled with unforced errors early in the year, leading to a .209 hitting percentage.
On Sunday, Notre Dame will travel down Tobacco Road for a matchup with North Carolina State. The Wolfpack (9-4) played in-state rival North Carolina on Wednesday, falling 3-0.
“NC State will be a very good team,” Brown said. “They were in the NCAA tournament last year and have lots of returners back. Even though they lost to UNC, they were up in every set. It will be a tough test.”
The Irish begin their inaugural ACC season today at 7 p.m. at Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill, N.C., before they head to Raleigh to play NC State on Sunday.
Contact Conor Kelly at ckelly17@nd.edu