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Volleyball: Tough part of schedule lies ahead

Pat O'Brien | Friday, October 19, 2007

Fresh off of coach Debbie Brown’s 400th victory at the helm of Notre Dame, the Irish head into a rough patch in their schedule.

Notre Dame will battle DePaul at home tonight and then travel to No. 25 Louisiana State for a non-conference match on Oct. 23. A three-match road trip ends with two games in the Mid-Atlantic – at Connecticut and No. 22 St. John’s.

Notre Dame (8-9, 4-3 Big East) is led by senior captain Adrianna Stasiuk. She tops the team with 234 digs and 19 service aces. Sophomore outside hitter Serinity Phillips paces the Irish with 235 total kills.

Senior setter Ashley Tarutis has 670 assists and 167 digs, while sophomore setter Jamel Nicholas has seen key minutes of late – scoring 193 helpers and 71 digs.

DePaul (5-15, 1-6) will be looking for revenge after losing to the Irish 3-0 last season. The Blue Demons are led by freshman middle blocker Jacie Fiedler. She was the offensive leader last weekend for the Blue Demons. Against Marquette, she racked up 14 kills with a .423 attack percentage.

“Tomorrow is going to be a fun game,” Tarutis said. “We have worked hard.”

LSU (16-4, 8-3 SEC) is coming off of a 3-1 victory over Ole Miss. The Tigers are led by 332 kills from junior outside hitter Kyna Washington and 861 assists from sophomore setter Maggie Lonergan. Junior libero Elena Martinez tops the LSU defense with 448 digs.

Connecticut (12-8, 3-4 Big East) dropped a lopsided 3-0 decision to the Irish in 2006. This season, the Huskies are led by senior outside hitter Sade Chambers, sophomore setter Bridget Denson-Dorman and sophomore libero Jessica Isaac.

St. John’s (21-3, 6-1), the final opponent of the stretch, has been tough on Big East opponents. The Red Storm crushed the Irish, 3-0, in a match last season at the Joyce Center.

This season, senior setter Wioleta Leszczynska has a conference-best 13.81 assists per game, and junior libero Lena Yee is fourth in digs with 4.61 per contest. Sophomore outside hitter LaToya Blunt is third in the Big East with a .363 hitting percentage.

“Every game left in the Big East is really important to us,” Tarutis said. “We need to win to get the better seed.”