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ND VOLLEYBALL: No. 8 Irish look to regroup against Big East foes

Tom Dorwart | Friday, November 11, 2005

Sometimes a team on a roll needs a loss to refocus or to rejuvenate.

The No. 8 Irish, whose 15-match winning-streak ended Nov. 6 at Pittsburgh, would much rather have kept winning.

Still, the five-game loss might have lit a fire for Notre Dame heading into the critical final weekend of the Big East regular season. The Irish face Villanova (20-8, 7-4 Big East) Saturday at 10 a.m. and Rutgers (10-15, 5-7 Big East) Sunday at 2 p.m., both at the Joyce Center.

“I think that loss was obviously hard,” senior Lauren Brewster said of the loss to Pitt. “We were all really frustrated afterwards. What we’re really trying to work on right now is coming together as a team. We’re really trying to work on that.”

Coach Debbie Brown agreed with her All-Big East player.

“Everyone was really disappointed,” Brown said. “I guess we’re doing all that we can to make sure that doesn’t happen again, especially getting in a situation where you’re on the road, and you’re up 2-0 and just figuring out a way to finish it.

“I think the main thing is just to try to get back and work out, get some confidence back and focus back and feel good about what we can do as a team again.”

Brewster said the team has refocused and is jumping for the opportunity, this weekend, to earn the top seed for next week’s conference tournament.

“We’re excited,” she said. “Saturday we have Villanova first, and I think that we’ve kind of learned that you have to be cautious about everyone and respect every opponent. We’re really looking forward to it. We haven’t won the Big East yet, so we’re excited to have this opportunity.”

The season, 24 matches long thus far, comes down to this weekend.

This weekend, the Irish control their own destiny. In fact, from here on out, they control their own destiny.

“We talked about what we’re working towards all season,” Brewster said.

As for having the second-longest winning streak in school history snapped, Brown said she wasn’t too worried about it. She wasn’t exactly keeping track. Instead, she and her team took every match as just any other crucial competition.

“To be quite honest, we never talked about it,” Brown said. “I honestly don’t think it was really a thought of the team about, ‘Oh, OK, we’re on this huge winning streak.’ I think every time we went into a match we just felt like that we could compete and play well and win. It never even came up in a conversation. I honestly don’t even know what it was – 13, 14? It was never a part of our thought process.”

Whether they thought about the streak or not, the Irish are, at least, now without the pressure of keeping it going. They’re without the target of being a team with 15 straight wins, a team that everyone wants to beat in order to end such a streak.

Now, hopefully, Brown says, her team has learned.

“Sometimes it could be said that you learn more from a loss than a win, and I think that remains to be seen,” she said. “We’ve gotten back in the gym and practiced a little bit. We need to figure [things] out and play really well again, too. At this point, I’m for sure not glad that we lost. Certainly my hope is that it will make us better.”