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Irish have one last chance

Heather VanHoegarden | Tuesday, November 25, 2003

They know what they have to do, now it is just a matter of execution.

Coming off a loss to Pittsburgh (24-4) in the Big East Tournament Championship, No. 20 Notre Dame (23-5) looks to regroup when they travel to No. 6 Stanford Saturday.

The Irish come off a loss that snapped their 61 game Big East winning streak at home and was only the second loss the Irish have ever suffered in the Big East tournament since joining the conference in 1995. The Irish are 2-3 in their last five matches.

But Notre Dame is putting the loss behind them and moving on. They have a week of practice to prepare for Stanford (21-6), the last regular season match of the year.

“We can’t go into Stanford and have a good match if we don’t practice well this week,” Irish head coach Debbie Brown said. “We have to get back into the gym and work out the details there.”

The Irish have been led all season by their nation-leading blocking average, 3.73 per game. Emily Loomis leads the Irish attack with 3.62 kills and 1.12 blocks per game. She is joined by Lauren Brewster, who is atop the nation with 1.82 blocks per game. She also averages 3.54 kills per game.

However, the Irish have struggled of late, losing to then No. 14 Northern Iowa, and then dropping two matches in one week to Pittsburgh.

Those two losses gave Pittsburgh a share of the regular season conference title and last Sunday, the Big East Tournament Championship.

“This is the time to pull together – we’re in the postseason and it goes really short,” Brown said. “You don’t allow yourself to get tired, you don’t allow yourself to make excuses, you just get after it everyday at practice. We just have to play well.”

Stanford will be a tough opponent for the Irish, as they outhit opponents last weekend .405 to .156. Both teams will be looking to improve their seeding chances going into the NCAA Selection on Sunday evening.

Senior setter Kristen Kinder will have to lead the Irish offense back on track in their efforts to beat the Cardinal for the first time ever. Kinder, Brewster and Lauren Kelbley were all named to the Big East all conference team last week. Brown was named co-coach of the year, and Loomis earned second team honors.

But for now, the Irish remain focused on the week of practice.

“I think that for some reason we didn’t play with the confidence we need to play with [against Pittsburgh],” Brown said. “I think the only way you get that pack is you get back into the practice gym.”So despite the setbacks of the last few weeks, the Irish remain focused on one thing – winning.

“I still think this team can accomplish a lot,” Brown said. “What we need to do is go after the match and be able to say ‘that’s all we had, they were just better.'”

Saturday’s game is set to start at 1 p.m.