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ND Volleyball: Irish upset No. 5 Stanford, finish 2-1 at Shamrock Invite

Chris Masoud | Sunday, August 30, 2009

In one of the most significant victories in program history, the Irish volleyball team defeated No. 5 Stanford in straight sets Saturday to highlight a 2-1 opening weekend at the Shamrock Invitational, which also included a win over Denver Friday and a loss to LSU Sunday.

The upset win over the Cardinal marks just the second time the Irish have dealt a loss to a top-five opponent, the first since 1993.

“We have tremendous senior leadership on the team, and I thought all the seniors played really well,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “We played really poised, and we didn’t get nervous down the stretch, and I think that’s indicative of a team that has experience. It’s a huge win for our program.”

The Irish improved their all-time record to 37-7 at the annual event. The squad racked six consecutive sets in the win column to sweep Denver on Friday and the Cardinal on Saturday, before falling in straight sets to LSU on Sunday.

The Pioneers wrapped up the weekend winless in three tries, while Stanford and LSU both finished the showcase with records of 2-1.

The Tigers opened the invitational by falling in five sets to the Cardinal in a hard-fought match, but bounced back to snap Notre Dame’s hopes for a three-team sweep. LSU outside hitter Michele Williams was named tournament MVP, finishing the event with 37 kills (2.85 per set) and 19 blocks (1.46 per set).

Despite the loss to the Tigers, the Irish’s strong performance this weekend will no doubt turn some heads in the volleyball community. The squad was paced by impressive performances from senior outside hitter Serenity Phillips and sophomore outside hitter Kristen Dealy, both of whom were named to the all-tournament team.

Notre Dame was lifted by exceptional individual accomplishments, but the team’s greatest assets may be its poise and experience.

“I think I go back to this May when we got to take the team overseas,” Brown said. “We went to Italy and had two weeks of training in there that helped the chemistry and helped the team get a little bit stronger. We played against some really big blockers and some players that hit the ball extremely hard, so it wasn’t like we were coming in here thinking we hadn’t seen this before.”

Notre Dame now hits the road as it prepares to compete in the Xavier Invitational next week in Cincinnati. The Irish will look to carry over the momentum from this weekend’s success as they take on Xavier, Tennessee and No. 16 Michigan.

“We do have to guard against a letdown,” Brown said. “I know the team realizes that they’re good, but there’s just the emotional high of winning. It’s going to be tough.”