Jeni Houser

Irish Open BIG EAST Championship By Redeeming Regular-Season Loss To Syracuse

Nov. 18, 2011

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MILWAUKEE – Fifth-seeded Notre Dame knocked off fourth-seeded Syracuse, 3-1 (27-25, 25-17, 21-25, 25-19), at Marquette’s Al McGuire Center on Friday during quarterfinal action of the BIG EAST Conference Volleyball Championships.

The victory advanced the Irish (16-11) into Saturday’s semifinals in which Notre Dame will face the winner of the matchup between regular-season champion Louisville and eighth-seeded Pittsburgh.

By avenging its regular-season loss to Syracuse less than one week ago, Notre Dame has now won its first-round matchup of the league tournament 17 times in as many seasons.

Freshman Jeni Houser blitzed Syracuse with 17 kills (.433) and three of Notre Dame’s 10.5 blocks.

The Irish hit .317 behind sophomore Maggie Brindock’s 31 assists, including a .409 average in the second set.

Senior Kristen Dealy and sophomore Sammie Brown each had a pair of aces while senior Frenchy Silva was good for a team-high 19 digs.

Syracuse’s Lindsay McCabe had 13 kills with Nicolette Serratore adding 11.

Junior Hilary Eppink and sophomore Andrea McHugh teamed for a block on the left side to give Notre Dame a 4-3 lead in the first and Eppink then got going on the offensive end with kills at 12-10 and 15-14.

Eppink had a solid outing with 12 kills (.429) with four blocks.

Syracuse (19-12) did not go away easily, rallying from a 20-17 deficit to force an Irish timeout at 21-21. The Irish scored the next two out of the break only to see Syracuse tie things at 23-23.

An ace from Brown put Notre Dame ahead, 25-24, which sparked an effort to hold off the Orange for the win.

A 6-0 run by the Irish to begin the second provided enough room for the Irish to cruise through the set, with Brindock doubling the score with an ace at 14-7.

Syracuse came out of intermission on a 4-0 tear which Notre Dame countered by feeding Houser for kills at 4-1 and 6-2. Dealy managed to ace the Orange to bring the Irish to within a point at 13-12 prior to seeing Syracuse pull away.

The confidence of the Irish shined through in the fourth set with pinpoint passing at all the right times.