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ND Volleyball: Notre Dame finishes 1-2 at Xavier tournament

Meaghan Veselik | Monday, September 7, 2009

The Irish were swept by No. 7 Michigan – Notre Dame’s second top-10 opponent in the past week – to finish their weekend 1-2 at the Xavier Invitational.

Notre Dame (3-3) was victorious Friday in its 3-0 win over Xavier, but fell Saturday to Tennessee.

“We fell short of what we wanted to do,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “We didn’t execute overall as a team to defeat Tennessee and Michigan. There were a lot of bright spots, we just need to put some things together.”

Xavier fell 3-1 to Michigan Saturday and 3-0 to Tennessee Sunday. The Wolverines went 3-0 for the weekend after starting off with a 3-1 defeat over the Lady Volunteers.

“They are all different style teams and that showed,” Brown said. “We know some of the things we struggled with was our serving. We know where we want to be with that and are taking a step in the right direction.

“We’re also working on our passing because it was somewhat erratic. We can get better in both those areas.”

Senior outside hitter Serenity Phillips and sophomore libero Frenchy Silva were essential in the Irish win over the Musketeers Friday in the four-set match (25-19, 25-21, 18-25, 25-18). Phillips had 19 kills while hitting at a .444 rate and Silva notched a career-high 23 digs.

Sophomore outside hitter Kristen Dealy and senior setter Jamel Nicholas also stepped up for the Irish. Dealy put out 15 kills and nine digs as Nicholas led all players with 46 assists for the day.

“We probably matched up a little better with Xavier,” Brown said. “We were steadier with our passing.”

Saturday was not as successful for Notre Dame as it dropped a 3-0 (25-22, 25-16, 25-22) match to the Lady Vols. The match marked the first time since an Oct. 19, 2007, match versus DePaul that no Irish player finished with double-digit kills.

Phillips led the team with 11 digs, seven kills and three blocks in the loss. Junior libero Angela Puente had 11 digs for Notre Dame and Nicholas put in 29 assists while senior outside hitters Christina Kaelin and Megan Fesl both had six kills.

But the Irish couldn’t keep up with the Lady Vols hitting from the field. They struggled to put up a .103 hitting percentage to Tennessee’s .200.

Looking to recover its winning record for the weekend, Notre Dame came out strong but was unable to overcome the powerful Michigan team, losing 3-0 (25-19, 31-29, 25-20).

“I think today in the match we ran a much more balanced attack, and that will definitely help us down the road,” Brown said.

Both teams stepped up in the second set of the match with 13 tied scores and three lead changes.

Kaelin led the Irish in only her second start of the season with 13 kills and three digs. Nicholas also put out an impressive performance as she recorded a double-double with 36 assists and 15 digs. Freshman middle blocker Hilary Eppink made her first career start and finished the afternoon with eight kills and a .438 average. Dealy posted seven kills, nine digs and one ace in the match.

As they has already showed early on in this season, the Notre Dame seniors have showed their maturity on the court.

“We have a really good group of seniors,” Brown said. “They all have a pretty significant role on the team, and keep the atmosphere on the court relaxed, which isn’t something you can teach, it just comes from experience.”

Notre Dame returns to its home court this weekend as they host the Notre Dame/adidas Invitational at the Joyce Center where Wisconsin and New Mexico State will be traveling to take on the Irish.