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ND Volleyball: Irish hit the road for Big East games

Laura Myers | Friday, November 6, 2009

Notre Dame looks to bring its win streak to an even dozen this weekend as it travels to Marquette and Syracuse for its last conference road games of the season.

The Irish (16-4, 10-0 Big East) have coasted through the conference so far this season and are its only undefeated team.

“When you’re playing well and winning, the confidence continues to build,” coach Debbie Brown said. “It makes practice more fun. It’s definitely a positive thing.”

The streak could work against the Irish, too. Because of their accomplishments, the players will enter both opposing arenas with targets on their backs.

“I think all the teams work really hard to beat us and there’s a lot of incentive,” Brown said. “It’s a big thing for them in a year where we’re playing well and we’re undefeated. We expect that both teams are going to play really, really well against us.”

Both teams have an extra motivation to come out strong — the Big East tournament is just two weeks away, and neither has yet clinched a spot. The Orange (18-9, 7-4) are currently sixth in the conference while the Golden Eagles (15-11, 4-7) are 10th. The top eight teams make the tournament, and three slots are already filled. Notre Dame has secured a spot, as have Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

The Orange had been up with the leaders of the conference until Oct. 24, when a loss to Marquette ended their six-game winning streak. They have since lost four straight games.

All four of those losses came on the road, and Syracuse has yet to lose a game in their home arena.

 “With both of these teams this weekend, especially Syracuse, it’s important for them to win in order to make the tournament,” Brown said. “To keep the season alive they have to win.”

However, Brown said the Irish will do everything they can to keep that from happening. The Irish have played every player in more than one conference game this season and make frequent use of the bench. But that might not be the case this weekend.

“Marquette and Syracuse are playing at a pretty high level right now and we don’t want to do anything that will disrupt the rhythm of the team,” Brown said. “We feel confident in a lot of the players but right now we need to put our best foot forward and that may mean playing our starters more.”

Brown said the team has been focusing on the fundamentals to prepare for Marquette and Syracuse.

“Both of them have a couple good players that will be a challenge,” she said. “We’ve worked on our defense, blocking and defending different shots. The serving and passing, the basics of the sport, are going to be really important to us. Our passing has been really good so that should help us.”

The Irish will face the Golden Eagles Friday at 8 p.m. and will then travel to Syracuse to take on the Orange at 2 p.m. Sunday.