Jeni Houser (left) and Toni Alugbue (right) look to lead the Irish against No. 1 UCLA, Saint Louis and No. 4 Nebraska this weekend.

No. 1 Bruins, No. 4 Cornhuskers Await Irish In Nebraska

Aug. 23, 2012

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The Notre Dame volleyball team opens the 2012 season with a bang this weekend as they battle a pair of top-five opponents, including defending national champion and preseason No. 1 UCLA in Lincoln, Neb., on the campus of the University of Nebraska. The Irish will also meet Saint Louis in between the matchups with the Bruins and No. 4 Nebraska.

The Irish open the season on Friday at 5:30 p.m. ET against the Bruins. UCLA, who won the national championship last season as the nine seed against No. 3 Illinois, returns five starters and its libero from 2011. Notre Dame and the Bruins have only met on the court twice, with UCLA taking both contests. The last meeting was in 2001.

The meeting with the top-ranked Bruins is the first to open a season in program history. It is also the first meeting with a No. 1 team since 2001 when the Irish lost at Nebraska in three sets.

On Saturday Notre Dame will face off with Saint Louis at 4:30 p.m. ET. The Billikens finished 15-13 (10-5 Atlantic 10) last season under first-year head coach Kent Miller and return four starters and their libero. The Irish are 8-4 against the Billikens, including a 3-0 win in 2005.

The Irish close out their opening weekend with a showdown with No. 4 Nebraska in Omaha, Neb., at the impressive CenturyLink Center. The contest will be available online through the Big Ten’s The Cornhuskers return four All-Americans from a team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and is the preseason favorite in the Big Ten. The Irish are looking for their first win over the Cornhuskers since 1993.

All three matches will be available via live stats, with links provided on

Notre Dame, who was picked to finish third in the BIG EAST in the preseason poll, returns several key contributors from last year’s team including preseason all-BIG EAST team member Jeni Houser (320 kills, 79 digs, 70 blocks) and 2010 BIG EAST Freshman of the Year Andrea McHugh (281 kills, 40 service aces, 347 digs, 43 blocks).

Also back are veterans Hillary Eppink (192 kills, 94 blocks), Toni Alugbue (184 kills, 75 digs, 98 blocks), Maggie Brindock (777 assists, 162 digs, 12 service aces) and Sammie Brown (376 assists, 111 digs, 13 service aces).

Following the three-match weekend in Nebraska, the Irish will open the home portion of their schedule with the Shamrock Invitational next Friday through Sunday, where they will welcome in UAB, Buffalo and Eastern Kentucky.