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ND Volleyball: No. 7 Michigan awaits Irish in Cincy

Meaghan Veselik | Friday, September 4, 2009

After opening the season with two wins and a loss in the Shamrock Invitational, the Irish head to Cincinnati this weekend to face another three challengers at the Xavier Invitational.

Notre Dame (2-1) will go up against Xavier, Tennessee and No. 7 Michigan. Their match against the Wolverines, along with their 3-0 win over No. 5 Stanford at the Shamrock, will be the first time since 2007 that the Irish have taken on two top-10 teams in a week’s span.

“All the teams have different strengths,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “It will be a really competitive weekend but we’re really excited about it. Our goal is to win the tournament.”

The Irish had a strong start to their season, sweeping Denver and Stanford Friday and Saturday before a 3-0 loss to LSU. Senior outside hitter Serenity Phillips and sophomore outside hitter Kristen Dealy both had strong showings over the weekend and were named to the all-tournament team.

Among a powerful group of Irish seniors, Dealy is one of the underclassmen making a statement on the court early on in this season. She leads the team in points with 34.

Junior Kellie Sciacca and senior Christina Kaelin have also been central to the Irish offense this fall, with 24 and 15 kills, respectively. Heading Notre Dame’s defensive blocks is senior Tara Enzweiler, followed close behind by Sciacca.

However, there’s always room for improvement.

“We decided to work on the choices in our offense and how we can get to be smoother,” Brown said. ” We’re working on improving our technique and passing on defense. We all felt we didn’t serve very well [last weekend], and have worked to reduce the number of errors on the court.”

Irish have excelled so far in the side-out game, reaching close to 70 percent last weekend.

“It’s hard on the opponent when serving that you aren’t able to put a string of points together,” Brown said.

Brown said it is difficult to play three games so close together, but that she is confident in her team.

“I think we’re just taking it one match at a time, which is hard on weekends like this,” she said. “We have to be excited too. If we are able to execute the things that we worked on in practice this week, then I think we can come back with a win.”