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ND Volleyball: Irish open season by hosting invitational

Meaghan Veselik | Friday, August 27, 2010

Notre Dame will open its 2010 season on its home court, as the Irish will take on Marshall, Cal Poly and Arizona in the Shamrock Invitational this weekend.

“This is always a really exciting time of the year for us,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “We’ve been here a couple weeks now just to practice, but it’s way more fun when you get to play.”

Notre Dame, the Big East regular-season defending champions, finished last season 21-7. With six players graduating and six freshmen added to the roster, the Irish are prepared for a challenging weekend.

“We’re really looking forward to it since we know we have a great lineup of teams this weekend and we know it’s going to be really competitive,” Brown said.

Brown and the Irish are looking to their strong lineup of returning players to continue to lead the team and show the freshman the ropes. Junior Kristen Dealy, an outside hitter, and senior Angela Puente, a libero, will co-captain the team while working with other returning players to take on the challenges they will be facing.

“We have really strong leadership,” Brown said. “Our co-captains have done a really good job in practices and off the court helping acclimate the freshman as well as continuing to lead the returning players. I think that we have some other strong leaders, and different people lead in different ways.”

Dealy has 641 kills in her two years with the Irish and has repeatedly proven herself as an all-around threat on the court. Puente joins Dealy as one of the most experienced players on the team and in the league, while also being a knowledgeable defensive specialist.

Puente and her fellow liberos — senior Megan Dunne, junior Frenchy Silva and sophomore Christina Theofilos — have combined for more than 1,400 digs in their careers. Puente’s experience on all sides of the court and keeping her teammates on track will also be invaluable for Notre Dame this season, especially with the first three matches occurring in the same weekend.

Joining the Irish this season are six members of a highly touted recruiting class, which earned the No. 13 ranking on prepvolleyball.com. The youth of the freshmen won’t stop Brown from utilizing them on the court this weekend.

“We’ll have some freshman playing for sure,” Brown said. “We’ve worked through several different lineups and we need to see how everybody responds in game time situations. We need to see what combinations might be best for us but there will definitely be freshman on the floor.”

This weekend, freshmen Maggie Brindock and Sammie Brown start at setter, a position that will automatically put them in the spotlight.

“It’s just a matter of meshing it all together,” Brown said. “We go in there with the expectation of a win … A huge thing for us is that we find a good rhythm and that we get better every night that we play.”

The Irish open their season against Marshall at 7 p.m. tonight. Notre Dame plays Cal Poly at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and finishes the weekend against Arizona at 1 p.m. Sunday.