Aug. 9, 2004
The University of Notre Dame volleyball team is 25th in the preseason edition of the USA Today/CSTV Top 25 Coaches’ Poll, announced today by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA). It is the third time in four years and the ninth time since 1993 that the Irish are listed in the AVCA’s preseason rankings. Notre Dame, which will take on 11 teams that are either ranked or receiving votes in the poll, opens its season on Wednesday, Sept. 1 against Loyola University Chicago at 7 p.m. (EST) in the Joyce Center before welcoming #2 Nebraska for matches on Sept. 3 and 4, both at 7 p.m. Notre Dame is one of only two Division I teams (along with two-time defending NCAA champion and preseason #1 USC) to return three players who earned All-America accolades from the AVCA a year ago. In all, the Irish return nine monogram winners, including four starters, from last year’s squad that finished 23-7 and was ranked as high as 12th before finishing 24th. The 2003 team was 11-1 in BIG EAST play to claim a share of Notre Dame’s eighth regular-season title in nine years since joining the conference. The Irish were the runners-up in the BIG EAST Championship, but earned their 12th consecutive bid to the NCAA tournament, losing to #19 Louisville in the opening round. The Trojans, who enter 2004 on a 47-match winning streak, received 56 first-place votes and will face the Irish on Sept. 18 in the Gamecock Invitational in Columbia, S.C. UCLA was third, while national runner-up Florida came in fourth, and Minnesota, which reached its first-ever NCAA semifinal in ’03, was fifth. Nebraska received five first-place votes, while Stanford (6th) garnered a pair, and the Golden Gophers and California (10th) received one each. Irish fans will have a chance to see four home matches against squads ranked or receiving votes. Northern Iowa, ranked 21st in the preseason after ending 2003 at 18th, will make its first-ever trip to the Joyce Center on Nov. 16 for a 7 p.m. (EST) match, while Pittsburgh, which is receiving votes after being the first team outside the top 25 at the end of ’03, will be at Notre Dame on Nov. 12 for a 4 p.m. contest. The latter match will feature the BIG EAST co-champions from a year ago and a rematch of the league tournament title match, which the Panthers won in the Joyce Center. This year’s affair will take place just hours before the pep rally for the meeting between the schools in football, slated for the following day. The 2004 road schedule for Notre Dame consists of 11 non-conference matches, of which eight will be against squads that are either ranked or receiving votes in the preseason poll. In addition to the match against the Women of Troy, the Irish will be at #24 Utah on Oct. 19 and will take on six teams receiving votes: Fresno State (Sept. 10, Cal Poly Invitational in San Luis Obispo, Calif.); Michigan State (Sept. 17, Gamecock Invitational in Columbia, S.C.); Michigan (Sept. 28); Brigham Young (Oct. 20); UC Irvine (Nov. 26, Baden Thanksgiving Tournament in Long Beach, Calif.); and Long Beach State (Nov. 27, Baden Thanksgiving Tournament). Notre Dame was receiving votes, but not listed in the AVCA’s preseason top 25 a year ago, after the Irish were 25th in the 2002 edition and 20th heading into ’01. The 2004 campaign marks the 12th in the last 13 seasons that Notre Dame has made at least one appearance in the AVCA rankings. The matches against the Cornhuskers will be the sixth and seventh in a row between the schools with both teams carrying national rankings. In eight previous matchups with Nebraska, the Huskers have never been ranked lower than eighth. NU will be the highest-ranked team to play in the Joyce Center since #2 Florida beat the Irish in four games on Sept. 8, 1997. The only other time a team ranked among the nation’s top two has played at Notre Dame was Sept. 4, 1996, when second-ranked Stanford topped the Irish in three games. Voting by 65 Division I head coaches – including Notre Dame’s Debbie Brown – determines the USA Today/CSTV Top 25, which will be released weekly from Sept. 6-Dec. 6. The final rankings are released following the completion of the NCAA Championship, which wraps up on Dec. 18 in Long Beach, Calif. The complete AVCA Top 25 (as well as past editions) can be accessed at www.avca.org.