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Home schedule kicks off

Heather VanHoegarden | Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Notre Dame may be in Indiana, not Kansas, but the Irish agree that there is no place like home. They are ecstatic to play on their home court after a five-game road swing to start the season.”We are so excited to be on our home court,” sophomore middle blocker Lauren Kelbley said. “It’s going to be great to be back in the JACC.”Notre Dame (4-1) will face the undefeated Valparaiso Crusaders (8-0) in their home debut Tuesday evening.”We don’t take anybody lightly, because in college volleyball, anything can happen,” Kelbley said.No. 15 Notre Dame looks to maintain its ranking, led by Kelbley and junior hitter Emily Loomis. The Irish moved up six spots in this week’s polls, jumping from No. 21.”It is very exciting to be ranked,” Kelbley said. “We know our potential, and it’s great to finally see us get in the polls.”Kelbley is coming off an outstanding weekend at the Longhorn Classic, where she was named tournament MVP. Friday’s match against Houston saw her slam 22 kills, and she hit .446 on the weekend. This was good enough to earn her Big East Player of the Week.Meanwhile, Loomis has also been playing well lately, earning Big East Player of the Week last week and all-tournament last weekend.But this dynamic duo has not been alone in their efforts. Senior setter Kristen Kinder and sophomore setter Kelly Burrell have been instrumental in leading the Irish offense. With the new 6-2 rotation, the Irish have been able to put up a dominant block on the opposition’s outside hitters, helping them to become an even better blocking team.Senior outside hitter Jessica Kinder, senior hitter Katie Neff and sophomore middle blocker Lauren Brewster have also been strong at the net for the Irish.”We are dominating at the nets,” Kelbley said. “We have a huge block on the right side for all rotations, and that is big.”For now, the Irish are just focused on handing the Crusaders their first loss of the season.”We are just going to go out there and play our best match on our side of the court, and see what we can do,” Kelbley said.The Irish and Crusaders square off today at 7 p.m. in the Joyce Center, the first of seven straight home games for the Irish.