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No time like the present for Irish

Mike Gilloon | Wednesday, September 1, 2004

With a dynasty like Nebraska waiting to converge on the Joyce Center later this week, it might be tempting for the Irish to overlook their opening match against Loyola Chicago tonight at 7 p.m.

Fortunately for Notre Dame, coach Debbie Brown won’t let that happen.

“There is a huge danger in looking past anyone,” Brown said. “The results will take care of themselves if we just take it one match at a time.”

The No. 25 Irish will need to keep that in mind as they face a talented Ramblers team that returns four starters, featuring two-time AVCA All-Midwest Region setter Lauren Holbrook.

Including tonight’s contest, the Irish will have four home matches in the next week. They will square off with Nebraska on Friday and Saturday while facing Valparaiso Tuesday. All matches begin at 7 p.m. at the Joyce Center.

The Irish will look to duplicate much of the success of last year’s team. The 2003 Notre Dame squad split the Big East regular season championship and finished second in the conference tournament while extending their streak of NCAA Tournament berths to twelve.

Captain Meg Henican believes the Irish are ready to start the year off right.

“Our goal every time we step on the court is to win,” she said. “Obviously that won’t be easy as Loyola is a great team.”

Four starters return from last year for the Irish – juniors Henican, Lauren Brewster and Lauren Kelbley along with senior Emily Loomis.

Loomis, Brewster and Kelbley were named honorable mention All-Americans last season and are the only trio in school history to record 350 kills apiece in the same year. As a sophomore, Loomis was named the Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player. Brewster led the country in blocks last year with 1.78 per game while Kelbley holds a .325 career hitting percentage, the second best in school history. Henican is also a player to watch as she sports a 3.15 career dig average, which ranks as second-best in school history.

After playing against each other during the preseason, the Irish are ready for some fresh competition.

“I am excited that the team will finally get an opportunity to play,” Brown said. “The preseason is fine but there is nothing like getting the chance to play someone else.”