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ND Volleyball: Irish sweep twice over weekend

Meaghan Veselik | Monday, November 15, 2010

Two straight sweeps and 31 kills from junior outside hitter Kristen Dealy marked the end of the regular conference season for the Irish as they defeated Rutgers and Seton Hall over the weekend to put them at (17-11 overall, 10-4 Big East) as they head into the Big East tournament next weekend.

“We are really excited because this weekend’s games are a springboard for the upcoming Big East tournament,” Dealy, a co-captain of the squad, said.

A number of other Notre Dame players looked ahead to the Big East tournament, including freshman outside hitter Andrea McHugh, who has earned five Big East weekly honors this season.

“It feels really good to end the conference on two solid wins,” she said. “As a team and coaching staff we have really been focusing on finishing strong and building each and every day as a team so we can perform our best in the Big East tournament.”

Dealy complimented her 31 kills, 20 of which came Sunday at Seton Hall, with 9 digs on Saturday at Rutgers and 15 on Sunday for one of her best hitting weekends this season. She averaged 5.17 kills/set and 4.00 digs/set across six sets, but still brought her success back to the efforts of her teammates.

“I am really impressed with the selflessness of each player and the cohesiveness with which we played,” Dealy said. “This is essential for the tournament, because we clearly have the talent to be very successful, we just need an all out effort from the entire team all at once, which I think we saw this weekend.”

Notre Dame saw strong hitting from all sides of the court this weekend as the team hit .377 against the Scarlet Knights and .267 over Seton Hall, including 14 aces from six Irish players.

Sunday’s 3-0 win (25-23, 25-20, 25-17) almost wasn’t a sweep when hitting errors on the Notre Dame side gave the Pirates five free points and putting the Irish down 7-5. The two teams traded runs until Seton Hall broke out with a pair of three-point runs. An ace from Dealy tied the set at 20-20 and two kills from freshman middle blocker Sam Brown brought them to set point at 24-21. A Dealy kill closed the set.

The Irish fell behind in the second set but back-to-back Dealy kills and an ace at 17-12 propelled them to another win before taking down the Pirates again in the third.

Freshman outside hitter Andrea McHugh recorded 10 kills and 10 digs at Seton Hall to chip in on offense while sophomore middle blocker Hilary Eppink had six kills, while five more Irish players recorded a kill in the match.

Freshman setter Maggie Brindock had a career weekend with 25 assist, five digs and four blocks Sunday after posting 25 assists, three aces and eight blocks at Rutgers. Similar to Dealy’s outlook, Brindock said she felt that the weekend was really a display of what the Irish players could do when they worked together.

“We went in with the determination to play hard and go undefeated to get ready for the tournament next weekend. As a team we played awesome,” Brindock said. “We had confidence in each other and we carried poise on the court. Our chemistry was very strong, and it greatly helped us take over against Rutgers and Seton Hall. We enjoyed playing with one another and had fun playing the sport we all love.”

The Irish took down the Scarlet Knights 3-0 (25-18, 25-8, 25-12) Saturday morning to lead the all-time series 18-0 (16-0 in regular-season conference matches) over Rutgers. Eight block assists and five kills from senior middle blocker Kellie Sciacca highlighted the win as Notre Dame recorded 11 of the weekend’s 14 aces.

Junior libero Frenchy Silva made a match-high 17 digs and two aces in the match, including one during the second set to put the Irish lead to 10-5. McHugh put up nine kills, seven digs and two aces while Eppink added in five kills of her own off of eight errorless swings.

Fifth-seeded Notre Dame will face fourth-seeded Villanova in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals at 10 a.m. on Nov. 19 at Pittsburgh’s Fitzgerald’s Fieldhouse as they work to build off its two-match win streak.

“I see these wins as a new beginning. It is a great booster for the upcoming weekend,” Brindock said. “As a team, after this successful weekend, we feel strong and completely together. We are all in to take on the challenge this next weekend to be undefeated and earn the title of Big East Champions.”