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Irish must become consistent

Heather VanHoegarden | Wednesday, November 19, 2003

They’ve had a good season. Now is the time to make it a great season. The No. 17 Irish face what is perhaps their biggest test thus far – the Big East Tournament.But there is only one thing stopping the Irish from winning two games this weekend and taking home the crown – themselves.All year long, the Irish have shot themselves in the foot, sputtering on offense late in games and giving up early leads.This happened last Sunday in their first Big East loss to Pittsburgh. That match saw the Irish hit .000 in the third game and .632 in the fourth, only to give up a 7-4 lead and lose 15-13 This resulted in a tie between the Irish and the Panthers for first place for the regular season Big East title.This trend has haunted the Irish all season long. Against then No. 14 Northern Iowa, the Irish hit a mere .185 to lose the match in four games.It happened against South Carolina in the beginning of the year during the Shamrock Invitational, when the Irish hit only .165 in another four-game loss.But then again, there have been matches – such as the one against Miami – when they hit .326 to beat the Hurricanes in three games.The Irish are a better team than what those losses show.”We haven’t played to the top of our game yet in a single match,” senior Jessica Kinder said after the loss at Northern Iowa.Coach Debbie Brown agreed. She realizes her team is full of potential.”We’ve struggled to have one match where everyone plays well,” Brown said. “And that is your ultimate goal.”But the key for the Irish is time. After this weekend, the Irish travel to Palo Alto to face No. 7 Stanford, and then NCAA Regionals start. By that time, the loser goes home.If the Irish want to make a run in the tournament, let alone win the Big East tournament, they need to find some consistency. In a season of highs and lows, the Irish have not had a Jekyll and Hyde personality, but they have seen their share of tough losses; however, there is not a more capable team in the Big East than the Irish.They are an outstanding blocking and passing team. Their serve receive has been as consistent as one could ask for, and their defense is outstanding.If the Irish do these two things like they have all year, there’s one thing left – hitting.”When we’ve played well offensively, we’ve done well,” Brown said. “Everyone has to do their job, so if one or two players are off, it makes a difference. I think distribution is key – if we’re really good and everyone’s on, they can’t key on one person.”So the Irish need top-notch performances from the likes of sophomores Lauren Brewster and Lauren Kelbley, junior Emily Loomis and senior Katie Neff. And the Irish defense must give senior setter Kristen Kinder the passes she needs to make the good set.”We have a ton of talent,” Brown said. “It’s just a matter of getting everyone in the right frame of mind.”Notre Dame has won 22 games this year, but it doesn’t matter this weekend. All that matters is Miami at 3:30 p.m. in the Joyce Center.If the Irish play up to their immense potential, they will be a force to reckon with not only this weekend, but in the NCAA Tournament as well.If not, potential could be their worst enemy, and we will be left speculating on what could have been.