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ND Volleyball: Team at home for two matches

Joe Meixell | Friday, October 6, 2006

Notre Dame comes back to the Joyce Center this weekend for a pair of home matches against Marquette and Syracuse – the first time the team will play on familiar ground in over a month. Its last appearance at home was a 3-0 loss to then-No. 6 Santa Clara Sept. 3.

“It’s so nice to be back in the Joyce Center,” Irish head coach Debbie Brown said. “Not having to deal with delays and long travel [is fantastic]. I don’t think any of our flights have been on time this season.”

The Irish (9-5, 3-0 Big East), who are set to play Marquette today at 4 p.m. and Syracuse Sunday at 1 p.m., will look to continue their dominant winning streak amongst Big East opponents and advance to the top of the conference. Having beaten Rutgers, Villanova and Seton Hall, Notre Dame is one of two teams in the Big East that has won all of its conference games so far this season.

Big East rival Marquette (7-8, 3-1 Big East) is confident coming into the match. Like Notre Dame, it has won five of its last six matches. While Brown has now totaled 500 career wins, the Golden Eagles are one win away from that milestone number as a program.

Marquette has strong offensive players that have been putting up solid numbers. Junior Kimberly Todd averages 4.84 kills per game and senior Jamie Mueller has posted 3.98 kills per game this season.

The Irish offense, however, has been equally as potent, posting 15.6 kills per game – the same average as Marquette. Freshman outside hitter Christina Kaelin leads the team with 3.93 kills per game. Notre Dame has also hit with more consistency than the Golden Eagles, hitting a conference best .325 in Big East matches compared to Marquette’s .246.

Both Marquette and Notre Dame are very formidable teams defensively, ranked second and third in the Big East in digs per game respectively. The Irish defense averages 17.35 digs each game. Mueller leads Marquette with 5.32 digs per game. Senior libero Danielle Herndon leads Notre Dame with 5.14 per game.

Hoping to gain an advantage over their opponents this weekend, the Irish have been working to improve their defense even further.

“We worked a lot this week on defensive positioning and individual digging drills, trying to work on our blocking and defending,” Brown said.

Syracuse has managed to put together a three-game winning streak this past week, improving its overall record to 6-16 (1-3 Big East). Led by junior Cheryl Cobbina, who has 4.18 kills per game, the Orange hope to improve at the middle hitter position. The Orange defense averages 15.14 digs per game, led by Joscie Kaup’s 5.32 average. Historically, Notre Dame has had success over both opponents. Since entering the Big East, the Irish have only dropped two games to each team and have won a combined 60 games against Marquette and Syracuse. Regardless, the Irish understand the importance and intensity of this weekend’s matches.

“The Big East is really wide open this year,” Brown said. “It’s a really competitive season, making each match that much more important. It’s like we’re playing a championship match every week.”