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Irish face challenge on road

Anne Loughery | Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Notre Dame saw glimpses of a perfect match.The Irish fell just short of the tournament title at the Gamecock Invitational this weekend. Despite a disappointing loss to host South Carolina, Notre Dame collected its first win against Michigan State since 1994.”We played well against Michigan State, so we saw what we’re capable of doing,” setter Kelly Burrell said. “We just need everyone to play well at the same time and execute plays at a high level.”Tonight’s match against Michigan [10-2] offers the Irish [5-4] an opportunity to showcase just how capable they are and how much potential they possess. After more than a week’s respite, the Irish are eager to take the courts again.”We’ve made some great strides in practice,” coach Debbie Brown said. “I think the girls are pretty confident.”Returning outside hitter Meg Henican to the front row should add to the team’s confidence. More recently, Henican made her contributions to the team from the back row as libero due to a rib injury.Both Brown and Burrell said her presence at the net should make for an effective offense. “Meg brings a lot of offensive power to the court,” Burrell said. “She’s one of the team’s best passers, and we’re excited to have her back in the front row.”The Wolverines are expected to offer plenty of challenges to the Irish, despite the team’s renewed confidence. Western Michigan and No. 1 Minnesota were the only teams to topple Michigan this season. The Wolverines registered wins over a number of teams, most notably No. 22 Tennessee, Florida State, Iowa, Virginia Tech and Valparaiso. Last year, Michigan registered a 20-12 record and finished fifth in the Big Ten. The team finished the season at No. 33 in the AVCA poll.Brown acknowledged that Michigan will bring a solid and balanced team to the courts, but Brown emphasized that Notre Dame looks ready to compete.”We just need to work on being consistent,” Brown said. “This will be a good opportunity for us to compete and play against a strong Big Ten team.”