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Irish open Big East play against Orange

Mike Gilloon | Friday, October 1, 2004

A jet carrying the Notre Dame volleyball team will fly to Syracuse, N.Y. today. The Irish are hoping their season will get off the ground with it. After dropping their last two matches to South Carolina and Michigan, Notre Dame will open Big East conference play against the Syracuse Orange at 2 p.m. Saturday in Manley Field House.”I think we’re ready to go,” captain Meg Henican said. “We’re really excited, and we know it’s an important game.”Irish coach Debbie Brown is confident her team, the preseason pick to win the conference, will play to their potential. “I think we’re looking to get back on the winning track,” Brown said. That will be a difficult task as the Orange are 13-4 so far this season. They have played a rather challenging schedule highlighted by a 3-1 win over Washington State two weeks ago. Syracuse is powered by outside hitter Kristen Conway and middle blocker Kelly Duan. Conway leads the team with 193 kills on the year while Duan has tallied 167. Conway also was first on the team in 2003 with 414 kills while Duan led the Orange with 41 aces. Morgan Jones is another strong player the Irish will have to contend with as she leads returning Orange players with a .244 hitting percentage. The senior was second on the team last season with 362 kills. Syracuse finished 4-8 in Big East play last year and was only picked to finish ninth in the conference this season. They have also suffered defeat at the hands of Penn and Albany in their previous two matches but Brown and the Irish are not taking anything for granted. “Syracuse has struggled in their last four or five matches but they’ve played a real tough non-conference schedule,” Brown said. “I know they’ll be feeling pretty confident.”Despite the recent losses, Notre Dame has a reason to be optimistic in the play of Lauren Kelbley. The preseason all-Big East outside hitter had a career high 24 kills to go along with a .404 hitting percentage against the Wolverines. “This is a new position for [Kelbley] this year. She has been getting better and better and looking more comfortable out there,” Brown said. “I like her ability to hit such a wide variety of shots.”