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Irish to finish season in Tennessee

Ellyn Michalak | Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Notre Dame’s loss to No. 22 Louisville last weekend in the semifinals of the Big East tournament most likely means that its season will end Friday with a match at Tennessee.

The Irish needed to advance farther into the league tournament to give them a legitimate shot at being selected for the NCAA Tournament.

“Against Tennessee, we all just want to have as much fun playing as possible. Playing with nothing to lose and finishing strong will be key,” senior captain Adrianna Stasiuk said.

Notre Dame defeated both Cincinnati and Louisville in the team’s last two home games of the season to pick up the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament in Milwaukee.

The Irish started strong with a 3-1 (30-26, 30-24, 23-30, 30-24) win over fifth-seeded Cincinnati Friday night.

The Irish extended their winning streak to five games thanks to great play from Stasiuk and sophomore outside hitter Megan Fesl. Stasiuk earned 20 kills and 17 digs, while Fesl recorded 21 kills and nine digs. Senior setter Ashley Taurutis also aided the offense with 50 assists and 14 digs.

“I think that we showed a lot of heart and fight in the Big East tournament,” Stasiuk said. “We fought as hard as we could, and you can never be disappointed with that.”

Notre Dame moved on to the semifinals where they played top-seeded Louisville. Despite beating the Cardinals the previous week, the Irish were unable to repeat the performance and ultimately fell 3-0 (30-25, 30-20, 30-27). Fesl and Stasiuk, who had 11 and 15 kills, respectively, led the Irish again. Also contributing to the offense was freshman middle blocker Kellie Sciacca who earned a career-best 14 kills.

“We played well in both matches. Louisville has some very big athletes who out matched us on Saturday,” Fesl said. “We were out of system with our passing more on Saturday, and Louisville took advantage of that. We played our hardest and it was a tough loss to Louisville.”

The Irish have not played the Vols (11-17) since the end of the 2005 season. The Irish hosted Tennessee at the Irish Thanksgiving Invitational and lost 3-2.

“Since Tennessee will probably be our last match of the season, and Adrianna [Stasiuk] and Ashley’s [Tarutis] last match in college, we’re really going to go all out and play our hardest,” Fesl said.