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ND Volleyball: ND begins season perfect after Shamrock Invitational

Cory Bernard | Monday, August 29, 2011

On the heels of a disappointing season by program standards, the Irish have begun the 2011 season in style, opening 3-0 for the first time since 2006. Hosting the Shamrock Invitational over the weekend, Notre Dame defeated Eastern Michigan Friday, Idaho Saturday and Butler Sunday, each by a count of three sets to one.

After weeks of intra-squad scrimmaging, Irish coach Debbie Brown said she was relieved to finally see her team in action.

“It’s great to finally be playing other teams,” she said. “We learned quite a bit about our team.”

Though the invitational is only a preseason tournament, the wins may still play a part in NCAA tournament seeding should Notre Dame be in the mix nationally. In the string of victories, Brown said two areas of the game in particular caught her attention.

“I thought our passing was good,” she said. “It played a huge part for us in the victories. We also served pretty well. Those were two pretty big positives.”

The depth of this year’s team also encouraged Brown. She said most of her roster contributed, and all but one of the freshmen gained valuable game-time experience.

“We were able to play 12 people on our roster over the weekend,” Brown said. “It’s good to get everyone some experience, especially early in the season. I think it really shows our depth that almost everyone was in action.”

Individually, sophomore outside hitter Andrea McHugh stole the show, recording double-digit kills and digs in each of the first three games of the season. After being named the AVCA Northeast Region Freshman of the Year, as well as All-Big East Freshman of the Year last season, Brown said McHugh has begun her sophomore campaign as an even more confident player.

“She definitely has continued to improve,” Brown said. “Putting up the numbers she did, even just her kills-per-game average, it was just phenomenal all-around. I think the experience of playing in the Junior Volleyball World Championship was really good for her confidence. Overall, I’m very pleased with what she’s been able to do.”

According to Brown, opening with three victories at home helped prepare her team for what will likely be a much tougher match against Stanford Friday.

“We need to walk into that gym with some confidence,” Brown said of the Cardinal gym in Palo Alto, Calif. “We know that the teams we beat this weekend are not of the same caliber as Stanford, but [the invitational] was good to get to know some of our weaknesses and discover that will to win.”