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ND VOLLEYBALL: Cleaning house

Tom Dorwart | Monday, August 29, 2005

The leprechaun worked up a sweat. The men’s swim team stripped and did push-ups in the Joyce Center stands. And Lauren Kelbley and Lauren Brewster pounded 15 kills apiece to lead the Irish.

Tradition holds that the swimmers wear 30 pieces of clothing. For every Irish point, they shed one item until they reach the 30th – the Speedo.

Saturday night, the Irish saw the Speedos – three times.

In the first match of the 2005 season, Notre Dame defeated Michigan in straight games, 30-24, 30-16, 30-26, before 1,574 fans at the Joyce Center.

“Obviously, [we’re] very excited to have the win,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “For the first game, I think that there’s a lot of things that we did well. I think it’s also good because we can look at the film, and we can think about all the different things that we did that we weren’t as good at, but we know we can be.”

While she was still excited, Big East preseason player of the year Lauren Brewster was just as realistic as her coach.

“We had a few things that didn’t work out, and we certainly have a lot to work on in practice,” she said. “It was a lot of fun and really exciting. I think we did pretty well. We did well on some things that we worked on in practice, and we didn’t do so well on some things that we worked on in practice.

“Once you get on the court with your team, it gives you more confidence; you get more comfortable.”

The Irish played a solid defensive match, allowing their setters to get the ball to Kelbley and Brewster and their other attackers. Notre Dame had 46 total set assists and sophomore setter Ashley Tarutis had 40 of them.

The experienced Kelbley gave credit where credit was due.

“Obviously it was a combined team effort,” she said. “We had the passes and great sets that we could put the ball away. We’re an all-around crew. I don’t think it was just a few girls – I think we all contributed greatly.”

On the front line, in addition to Kelbley and Brewster, Carolyn Cooper and Meg Henican combined for 11 kills. Ellen Heintzman added six.

Throughout the three games, the Irish dominated the Wolverines with a combination of powerful kills, brick-wall-like blocks and diving digs. Brown was pleased with her team’s effort in the opener.

“I think the way the team approached it mentally was really good; we got off to a good start,” she said. “We pretty much controlled it the whole way.”

While the veterans led, two freshmen, Mallorie Croal and Madison Clark, showed they will be ready to contribute this season.

“I think it was important for Mallorie to get in, to get out on the floor and to get the jitters out of the way,” Brown said. “Both of them did well and the other two [freshmen] will have their opportunity.”

This week the Irish will try to make their corrections in practice, in time for The Inn at Saint Mary’s Shamrock Invitational, a round-robin tournament with Arizona State and 11th ranked Texas. The three-team event begins Friday with the Sun Devils tangling with the Longhorns.

“We’ve got some great teams coming in,” Brewster said. “We had a few kinks that we kind of have to iron out.”