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ND Women’s Volleyball: Losing streak unusual occurrence for squad

Chris Masoud | Tuesday, December 1, 2009

After rattling off 15 straight victories in the regular season, the winning streak has become a defining theme for the Irish this year. But since falling to No. 15 Florida this weekend, the team’s second straight loss, the Irish find themselves in unfamiliar territory.

“We just really didn’t play very well,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “I think the main thing was just the fundamentals of serving and passing. We didn’t serve very well at all, so we didn’t put pressure on them to take them out of their offense, and we didn’t receive serves well, so our passing was kind of erratic. It was the two basic fundamentals of volleyball that we didn’t execute well.”

Florida joins Tennessee and LSU as the third team from the Southeastern Conference to knock off the Irish (21-6, 14-0 Big East) in the regular season. The Gators (22-5, 16-4) combined for a .365 attacking percentage en route to a decisive 3-1 (25-13, 27-29, 25-15, 25-9) victory over Notre Dame.

Although the SEC has proven to be the Achilles’ heel for the Irish thus far, Brown is confident her team can break the trend in the event of a matchup in the NCAA Tournament. Four teams from the conference, including the three previous Irish opponents, will host the first and second rounds of the tournament.

“They’re very good, they’re all in the top 25, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the conference as much as we went up against three very strong teams,” Brown said. “If you look at the NCAA Tournament, the PAC-10 has eight teams in the tournament. The Big Ten, the Big 12, they’re all pretty competitive. We just happened to play three very strong SEC teams this year.”

If the Irish are to right the ship, they will need to get back to one of their greatest strengths on offense — balance. Highlighted by the exceptional performances of sophomore Kristen Dealy and seniors Christina Kaelin and Serinity Phillips, the Irish have maintained a .259 attacking percentage throughout the season.

“We have had pretty good balance,” Brown said. “There’s no question that our outsides, Kristen, Kaelin and Serinity Phillips, have done a great job all throughout the year as our starting outside hitters. But I do think that our middles are very offensive as well. They don’t get the ball as much as the outsides, but that’s pretty much the case on any team. If you didn’t have the balance then they wouldn’t be as successful as they are.”

With the regular season officially wrapped up, the Irish will turn their full attention to their first-round matchup against Ohio in the championships. Although the squad finds itself in a rut, motivation should not be an issue  Friday.

“It’s a brand new season, it’s the NCAA Tournament,” Brown said. “It’s very easy to be motivated, to be up for this whole tournament and to play well. I think we’ll be absolutely fine. We’re just going to get back in the gym and work on the fundamentals, that’s serving and passing, and try out a few other things, and we’ll be good to go.”