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Irish are unfazed by top-25 ranking in AVCA

Cory Bernard | Friday, September 2, 2011

After starting its season with three straight victories, Notre Dame received 15 votes in the latest AVCA top-25 poll. Irish coach Debbie Brown, however, couldn’t care less.


“Especially at this time of the year, [the ranking] is not a big deal at all,” she said. “It’s really hard to know how good your team is and how good other teams are. We didn’t beat anybody that’s noteworthy. We’re facing a much bigger test this weekend.”


Notre Dame’s (3-0) test takes the form of No. 6 Stanford, which the Irish will face Friday evening during the Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto, Calif. On Saturday, they will play St. Mary’s (Calif.), which has also received top-25 recognition. Brown said her team will enter the tournament very confident in its ability to beat the Cardinal (2-0) and the Gaels (1-3).

“We think we have a really good chance against both Stanford and St. Mary’s,” she said. “We are going out [to California] to win two games.”


At the Shamrock Invitational last weekend, sophomore outside hitter Andrea McHugh finished with 58 kills, including a career-best 25 against Idaho. She also won the Shamrock Invitational MVP and Big East Player of the Week honors. Instead of getting distracted by these accolades, Brown believes McHugh will remain focused.


“She will be business as usual,” Brown said of McHugh. “She’s not going to let [the awards] go to her head at all. She knows it’s all about the team.”


Part of a bevy of young talent, McHugh was not part of the Irish team the last time Notre Dame faced Stanford. The Irish enter Friday’s contest with a 1-6 all-time record against the Pac-12 favorite Cardinal, including a three-set victory from their last meeting in 2009.


Though Brown also coached that squad, she says preparation this week did not involve a look at the game from two years ago.


“That year we had six seniors,” Brown said. “This weekend will feature pretty much two different teams.”

According to Brown, the team — like its star outside hitter — has not changed its approach in practice despite preparing for a top-10 opponent.


“We’ve had the same mindset this week,” Brown said. “Just like any week, we get the film and work with that. We work on our game. We incorporated Stanford’s offense into our practice this week.”


Both Friday and Saturday’s Stanford Invitational games begin at 7 p.m.