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ND Volleyball: Syracuse comes to the JACC

Jared Jedick | Friday, October 31, 2008

The Irish end a three-game road trip when they return to action Saturday in the Joyce Center for matches against Big East opponents Syracuse and Marquette.

The Irish (11-11, 6-3 Big East) currently stand in third place in the conference in a tie with Louisville (10-10, 6-3) and Pittsburgh (14-10, 6-3). Ahead of them in the standings are St. John’s (16-7, 7-1) and Cincinnati (20-5, 7-2).

Although they have one more match against St. John’s left at home, the Irish are not in control of their own destiny and would still need help from other teams to win the Big East title.

“Even if we win out and beat St. John’s we will still need a lot of help,” head coach Debbie Brown said. “We need to win as many games as we can, and certainly we would like to have the highest seed possible in the tournament.”

Freshman outside hitter Kristen Dealy has had a strong couple of matches for the Irish, with double-doubles in each of the team’s last three games. Dealy has a 2.84 kills per set average, second to only junior outside hitter Christina Kaelin, who averages 3.30 kills per set.

The team holds the top statistical spots in the Big East in hitting percentage (.277) and kills per set (14.28), and ranks second in assists per set with 13.31. The Irish also rank second in digs per set with 14.5.

But having good marks in the stat book is not enough; the first step towards winning out the rest of the Big East season begins this weekend against Syracuse (14-11, 5-3).

“Syracuse is playing very well right now,” Brown said. “They took Cincinnati to five sets this year and almost beat them.”

Syracuse is led by a strong middle block, highlighted by junior Sarah Morton. Brown said she does not see any easy one-on-one hitting advantages in this match, so the Irish will have to play balanced volleyball. The Irish were too reliant on their outside during their loss to Villanova, Brown said.

“We are going to be pushed by Syracuse for sure,” Brown said.

Next up this weekend is another Big East foe in Marquette (8-13, 2-6) who is having a down season. Brown said she does not believe Marquette’s poor season to date is indicative of how they will play on Sunday.

“Any given team can beat any other given team on any given night in the Big East,” Brown said. “They took Syracuse to five sets in a loss. They will be ready to play.”

Marquette beat the Irish for the first time in program history last year.

The Irish will continue their Big East stretch run next weekend against Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J.