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ND VOLLEYBALL: Team will host rivals in opener

Tom Dorwart | Friday, August 26, 2005

It’s the first match of the season, and the Irish already have revenge on their minds.

Notre Dame plays host to the Michigan Wolverines Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Joyce Center. Last season, the Irish traveled to Ann Arbor and fell in four games, 23-30, 25-30, 30-27 and 30-32. While the Wolverines improved to 11-2, the Irish staggered to 5-5.

This year, the Irish vow, will be different.

“Michigan is always a big opponent for us, and they always have a good team,” sophomore setter Ashley Tarutis said. “This is our first game of this year, and I just really want to show Michigan what Notre Dame has to offer this season.”

The Irish plan to offer more than just good competition for the solid Wolverine squad. Michigan qualified for the NCAA tournament last year and, just like Notre Dame, bowed out in the second round. The Wolverines are one of eight 2004 NCAA tournament teams on the Irish schedule.

“I feel that if we play opponents with such a high level that will bring out our high level, and I’m just so excited because I think this team can go really, really far,” said Tarutis, who is known for her intensity and vocal presence on the court.

Senior co-captain Lauren Brewster, when asked about her own court leadership, praised Tarutis.

“I know I need to be more of a vocal leader,” she said. “Ashley Tarutis, on our team, does a great job of that.”

Clearly, there is a great amount of respect, understanding and reciprocity on the team this year.

“I’m feeling a ton more confident [this season]. We have five great seniors this year who have really worked hard the past three years to develop a strong core of a team,” Tarutis said. “And I’m really comfortable working with all of them this year.”

Tarutis’s sophomore counterpart, opposite/outside hitter Adrianna Stasiuk, was injured in the preseason and will be out for at least another week. The versatile, second-year Stasiuk broke several ribs about two weeks ago.

“I got hurt in preseason, so I won’t be playing,” she said. “I haven’t been playing at all in preseason. Next week I get to take X-rays again, and then I can go from there.”

After watching practice for a few weeks, Stasiuk is anxious to get back on the court.

“I can’t wait to play,” she said. “I just want to help the team as best as I can and to be a really good hitter and passer.”

For the season opener, the Irish will be without a key player, but with such strong group of seniors and returning players, they hope to get off to a positive start.

Rather than stumbling as they did last year against their archrivals, the Irish look to use the first match as a jumpstart to the season, a season for which the Irish have high expectations.

“Our goals are to win the Big East and to advance farther than ever before in the NCAA tournament,” Stasiuk said.

If the goal is to build a team capable of making a long stay in the NCAA tournament, what better place to start than against the nemesis from Ann Arbor?