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Irish face Ohio U. at Louisville Invitational

Devin Preston | Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Notre Dame has one more chance to prove it belongs in the NCAA Tournament. After losing 3-2 to Louisville in the Big East finals, the Irish host No. 18 Ohio this Friday at 5 p.m. in the Louisville Invitational. Ohio (27-3) won its fourth consecutive Mid-American Conference Tournament last weekend. The Irish (18-12) will look to put an end to the Bobcats’ 20-match winning streak.

“The team is very motivated,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said, “because they understand the significance of the matches they are playing now. The importance of these matches is really what’s driving them.”

The Ohio offense is led by freshman outside hitter Ellen Herman and junior middle blocker Melissa Griffin. Both players have seen action in all 100 of the Bobcats’ games this season. Herman averages 4.22 kills per game at a hitting percentage of .303, and Griffin has 3.97 kills per game at .379. Irish kill leader junior Adrianna Stasiuk, who has 300 kills, tallies 3.03 kills per game, and is helped out by freshman Christina Kaelin’s 291 kills (an average of 3.51 kills per game).

Defensively, senior libero Danielle Herndon leads the Irish with 5.11 digs per game.

As a team, Ohio averages 18.29 digs per game compared to Notre Dame’s 17.70. The Irish have the statistical edge in blocking and serving. Notre Dame averages 2.9 blocks per game, compared to Ohio’s 2.2.

Outside of junior Stephanie Blackburn’s 0.48 aces per game, the Bobcats are not as deep serving as Notre Dame, as the Irish have seven players with 15 or more aces this season.

Although Notre Dame, which is 1-4 against ranked teams, lost in the finals of the Big East Tournament, this final regular season matchup against Ohio is keeping hopes of an NCAA appearance alive.

“It’s really hard to determine,” said Brown of a possible NCAA Tournament appearance. “Having already won against St. John’s – a ranked team – a win against Ohio will put us in a much better position.”