Oct. 25, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Riding a six-match winning streak, the University of Notre Dame volleyball team returns home to the friendly confines of the Joyce Center for a pair of weekend matches.
The Irish welcome in the Pittsburgh Panthers at 7 p.m. on Friday to the North Dome field house of the Joyce Center and play host to USF at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion. The match against the Panthers was moved to the field house due to the NBA exhibition game between the Indiana Pacers and the Chicago Bulls that is also set to start at 7 p.m. in Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame (15-6, 8-1 BIG EAST) has won six straight contests, including five by 3-0 scores. The Irish have swept eight opponents this season through 21 matches and have already tied last year’s team, who swept eight opponents in 30 contests.
Last weekend Georgetown and Villanova were the victims of sweeps as Notre Dame rolled through the Hoyas and the Wildcats by a combined score of 150-88. For her efforts in the two wins, junior setter and tri-captain Maggie Brindock earned a spot on the BIG EAST’s Weekly Honor Roll. The Rockwall, Texas product recorded 59 assists, eight kills, 12 digs and three blocks while hitting .615 for the week.
All six wins during Notre Dame’s streak have come in BIG EAST play after a heart-breaking 3-2 loss to Marquette at home on Sept. 29. The Irish are tied for second in the BIG EAST with the Golden Eagles as the two teams trail No. 13 Louisville (9-1 BIG EAST) by just one match, with Notre Dame holding the tiebreaker over the Cardinals due to its Sept. 23 win in Louisville.
The Irish have hit their stride in league play as they lead the league in hitting percentage (.285) and blocks (2.87 per set) and are second in opponent hitting percentage (.157) in conference-matches only. Individually, Hilary Eppink (.376) and Jeni Houser (.364) are third and fourth, respectively, in hitting percentage during BIG EAST matches, while Taylor Morey is second in service aces (0.47 per set) and Maggie Brindock (10.68) is third in assists.
Pittsburgh (13-11, 4-6 BIG EAST) enters Friday winners of three its last five BIG EAST games after losing four of its first five to open conference play. Last weekend the Panthers swept St. John’s, 3-0, before falling to Connecticut, 3-1.
The Panthers have struggled on offense as they are hitting just .197 as a team. They do lead the league in service aces (1.32 per set) in league matches, as Lindsey Zitzke (0.41 per set) and Monica Wignot (0.37) are fourth and seventh, respectively.
USF (13-10, 5-5 BIG EAST) has won three of its last four BIG EAST contests and is coming off a home weekend split where it beat St. John’s, 3-1, but lost to UConn, 3-2.
The Bulls are in the top half of the league in several categories during BIG EAST-matches only including hitting percentage (4th), assists (4th), kills (5th) and blocks (3rd). Kayla Walton leads the way as she is hitting .290 on the year with 225 kills (2.47 per set). Andrea Rodriguez Gomez averages 1.87 kills per set and leads the team with 90 blocks (0.98 per set).
The match against the Panthers is “Free Shirt Friday” sponsored by ABC News 57 with the first 1,200 fans receiving free Irish t-shirts.
Sunday is Notre Dame’s annual Dig Pink match. T-shirts will be sold for $10 and Notre Dame’s pink jerseys will be auctioned off online. Head coach Debbie Brown is pledging $5 for every dig the Irish record in the match. Fans that would like to match Coach Brown’s donation can call 574-631-7356.
To follow Notre Dame volleyball stay tuned to UND.com or check out the team on Facebook (Facebook.com/NDVolleyball) or on Twitter (@NDVolleyball).
– Notre Dame is 21-9 all-time against Pittsburgh, including 12-5 in BIG EAST play … last year the Irish swept the Panthers, 25-13, 25-19, 25-20 … the last Irish loss came in 2008 at Purcell Pavilion, 3-1.
– The Irish are 7-0 all-time and in the BIG EAST against USF … last year Notre Dame won in three sets at Purcell, 25-23, 25-17, 25-19 … the series began in 2005.
– After producing 55 kills in the first 13 matches of the season, senior Hilary Eppink has been on fire as of late, tallying 75 kills in her last eight matches … Eppink is hitting .382 during the run, which is tops on the team for players over 50 kills, and is averaging 2.59 kills per set, which is third on the team.
– In BIG EAST play the Irish have been led by the hot hitting of outside hitter Jeni Houser and middle blocker Hilary Eppink … Houser has 103 kills and is hitting .364, while Eppink has 80 kills and is hitting .376 … Toni Alugbue leads the team with 107 kills in league play, good for an average of 3.24 per set.
– Freshman libero Taylor Morey has led or tied for the team lead in digs in 20 of 21 matches this season and has reached double-figures in 20 of 21 matches as well … has six matches with 20-plus digs.
– After splitting setting duties for much of the first part of the season, junior tri-captain Maggie Brindock has turned in four 50-plus assist matches since Sept. 16 against Kansas … has seven matches with 40 or more assists this year.
– Senior Marie Roof has recorded three or more blocks in 14 of 21 matches and leads the team with 69 blocks … Junior Andie Olsen has been the most consistent blocker on the team as she has recorded at least one block in 20 of the 21 matches … she leads the Irish with a 0.98 blocks per set average and is tied with Jeni Houser for second on the team in total blocks with 65.
– Toni Alugbue has recorded double-doubles (kills and digs) in eight matches including five straight matches from Sept. 14 – 23 … Maggie Brindock also has eight (assists and digs) … Andrea McHugh has six (kills and digs).
– Including the matchup with Marquette on Sept. 29, Notre Dame opened BIG EAST play with the preseason one, two and four teams in the league … then-No. 10 Louisville was picked first (3-2 win), Marquette was picked second (3-2 loss), the Irish were picked third and Cincinnati was picked fourth (3-2 win) … Notre Dame went 3-1 in those matches.
– After losing to then-No. 1 UCLA (3-1), then-No. 4 Nebraska (3-0), then-No. 17 San Diego (3-2) and then-No. 5 USC (3-0) to open the season, the Irish picked up their first win over a ranked foe this season on Sept. 23 against then-No. 10 Louisville (3-2) … it was the first win over a ranked team since then-No. 5 Stanford on Sept. 29, 2009 (3-0).
– The win over Louisville also marked the first time this season Notre Dame has rallied from a 0-2 hole to win and improved the Irish to 3-1 in five-set matches this year.
– The Irish have broken three winning streaks of seven matches or longer this season … with a 3-1 win over Kansas (now No. 17), ND broke the Jayhawks’ nine-match winning streak … in a 3-2 come-from-behind win over then No. 10 Louisville (now No. 13), the Irish broke the Cardinals’ 10-match winning streak … with a 3-1 win over St. John’s, Notre Dame snapped the Red Storm’s seven-match winning streak.
– With a 3-1 win over Buffalo on Sept. 1, head coach Debbie Brown picked up her 600th career win … she won 117 at Arizona State from 1980-88 and has been with the Irish ever since … Brown also won her 100th BIG EAST regular-season home match with a win over St. John’s (3-1) on Oct. 7.