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ND Women’s Volleyball: Irish face Bowling Green in opener

Kyle Cassily | Friday, August 25, 2006

The quest for a tenth Big East title and another deep run into the NCAA Tournament starts Saturday night at the Joyce Center for No. 21 Notre Dame in its season opener against Bowling Green.

The Irish are set to host their MAC opponents at 7 p.m. in the team’s first match since a 3-2 loss to Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament round of 16 on Dec. 9.

The Falcons finished their 2005 season with an 18-14 record and concluded their year with a 3-1 loss to Eastern Michigan in the quarterfinals of the MAC tournament. It will also be the first match of the year for Bowling Green.

“I do know that they have a lot of their players back, so they’re bringing an experienced team,” Irish head coach Debbie Brown said. “They’re a strong team within the MAC, and I’m looking at it saying we got to come out and play well.”

Bowling Green boasts a lone senior in Chrissy Gothke – as does Notre Dame, with senior captain Danielle Herndon – and five returning junior starters.

Gothke spent the majority of her time as a freshman at the libero position where she recorded a school record 497 digs. For the previous two seasons she has worked as a setter and outside hitter – everywhere but in the middle slot.

“It’s always interesting the first match,” Brown said. “You don’t have tape, you don’t know what the other team will bring. And how our young team will be able to make adjustments to things happening in the matchup.”

Notre Dame hosts the Shamrock Invitational at the Joyce Center next weekend, and the match against the Falcons will be their only tuneup. The Invitational will pit No. 6 Santa Clara and No. 13 Missouri against the Irish.

Also the season opener provides the premiere of a new formation for Notre Dame, as the team moves from the 6-2 set it had used previously to a 5-1 positioning.

The 6-2 formation puts two setters at opposite ends of the rotation and creates a situation in which the front three are always in an attacking position.

The 5-1 includes only one setter at any one time in the rotation, providing two attackers on the front line when the setter is positioned there and three attackers when she moves to the back.

“We have a top nine for sure and we’re planning to play a little different system,” Brown said of the players that will run the new system. “All nine are not considered substitutes. We feel pretty good with our top nine.”