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ND Volleyball: Tarutis willing to take the good with the bad

Tom Dorwart | Tuesday, November 8, 2005

When things go well for the No. 5 Notre Dame volleyball team, Ashley Tarutis rarely receives the credit she deserves.

Tarutis sets up teammates Lauren Brewster, Lauren Kelbley, Carolyn Cooper or Adrianna Stasiuk for kills, and at the players who spike receive much of the recognition.

But when things don’t go so well for the Irish, Tarutis willingly takes the blame.

“I put the blame on my shoulders when we don’t perform well offensively,” she said. “And when we do perform well… I’m pretty happy.”

Tarutis is often the unsung leader who drives the potent Irish offense. The sophomore setter leads the Big East in set assists with a 12.88 per game average. Tarutis has 1095 set assists through only 85 games, while many of the other Big East leaders have played more than 100 games.

As a vocal leader, she keeps the Irish offense rolling. Notre Dame ranks No. 4 in the conference in kills per game with 16.05 and No. 3 in hitting percentage with a .254 average.

But most importantly, the Irish are tied for No. 1 in the conference with 11 wins and sit at No. 5 in the nation in the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association poll.

Following a rare loss Sunday to Big East rival Pittsburgh, Notre Dame is 22-2 overall and 11-1 in the Big East, coming off the second-longest winning-streak in program history – a 15-match tear in which it dropped only four games.

With the loss, the Irish realize they might have blown any chance at a top national seed in the NCAA tournament. But Tarutis said the loss will motivate them even more.

“I think we realize we lost more than just a conference match,” she said. “We lost the possibility of a better seed in the NCAA tournament. That will motivate us to do a lot better in the following games.”

They still have hope, should they win out and play well in the Big East tournament next weekend.

“This is just one match, and I have so much confidence in our team that we’ll be able to bounce back,” Tarutis said. “We’ll have no problem with that. We’re just focused as a team, and we’re ready to take on the NCAA tournament and the Big East tournament.”

Now, Notre Dame has tangible proof that it isn’t invincible.

Now, after thoroughly dominating the first two games against the Panthers last Sunday (30-23, 30-15) and then blowing the final three games, the Irish know they must play a full match each time they step on the court.

“I think that we played really well in the first two games,” Tarutis said. “And then we just kind of lost our focus. We kind of lost respect for them [Pittsburgh] after we killed them in the first two games.”

The Irish had today and Monday off because of their recent grueling schedule consisting of matches against top Big East teams.

“We’ve had a lot of really tough matches lately,” Tarutis said. “We’ll be in the gym Wednesday.”

The last time the Irish lost, they went on the second-longest winning-streak in school history. When asked if she and her teammates are hungrier than ever to get back on the court, Tarutis didn’t hesitate.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” she said.