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ND Volleyball: Campaign concludes with a loss

Conor Kelly | Monday, November 28, 2011

Every year Irish coach Debbie Brown schedules a non-conference match at the end of the Big East championship for a little competitive practice before tournament time. But without a spot in the tournament this year, a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Dayton on Friday was all the Irish had to show for the extra game.

After a marathon first set that went 60 points, the Irish (17-13) could not derail the NCAA-bound Flyers (25-6), falling 3-0 (31-29, 25-20, 25-19).

“I think we approached this game differently than we often do,” Irish senior captain Kristen Dealy said. “There’s a little bit less pressure and more of an emphasis on enjoying the game with your teammates because we knew this could easily be our last match.”

Indeed, it would be the last match for the Irish. When the NCAA selected the 64-team field for the NCAA tournament Sunday, the Irish were on the outside looking in. After falling to Cincinnati in the Big East title game a week Nov. 20, the Irish held on to the slim hope that they would be selected for the NCAA tournament after a strong showing in the conference tournament, despite a mediocre regular season.

Against the Flyers, Notre Dame held set-point numerous times in the first set yet were unable to come up with the clutch point when it mattered.

“We were right on the cusp there a couple times,” Dealy said. “It’s fun to go back and forth like that, but that’s the way things have been for a lot of this year.”

In her final match for Notre Dame, Dealy led the team with 14 kills on the day, followed by junior Hilary Eppink with eight and sophomore Andrea McHugh with seven. Senior Frenchy Silva totaled 15 digs in the defensive effort.

The match was the last in the careers of Dealy and Silva, co-captains and the lone two seniors on the young team.

“We knew that this could very well be the last match that we would play in our careers,” Dealy said. “So it was nice to be able to play one more time. Usually Coach Brown schedules these games as tune-ups for the NCAA tournament. We were so close to getting there against Cincinnati.”

A win against the Bearcats in the Big East final would have secured an NCAA berth for the Irish who must now turn to next season as the team returns 12 of 14 players in 2012.



Contact Conor Kelly at [email protected]