Freshman Nicole Smith put on a show last week against Weber State with four aces, including three straight in the first frame.

Volleyball Preps For Three Matches In Mile High City

Sept. 8, 2010

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Non-conference volleyball action continues this weekend when Notre Dame travels to Denver for the Pioneer Classic (Sept. 10-11). The Irish will play Denver, Jacksonville State and Gonzaga.

Last week in Reno, Nev., the Irish went 2-1 with wins over Belmont and Weber State.

The current two-week roadswing comes to an end Sept. 17-19 when the Irish host the Notre Dame Invitational at Purcell Pavilion.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4-2 overall / 0-0 BIG EAST
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Gonzaga Bulldogs
2-5 overall / 0-0 West Coast
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Friday, Sept. 10 – 4:00 p.m. (MT)

Jacksonville State Gamecocks
4-3 overall / 0-0 Ohio Valley
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Saturday, Sept. 11 – 2:00 p.m. (MT)

Denver Pioneers
4-4 overall / 0-0 Sun Belt
[ –]
Sunday, Sept. 12 – 1:00 p.m. (MT)

Pioneer Classic Schedule – Denver, Colo.
Friday, Sept. 10
Texas A&M vs. Jacksonville State – 12:00 p.m.
Notre Dame vs. Gonzaga – 4:00 p.m.
Denver vs. Texas A&M – 6:00 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 11
Denver vs. Gonzaga – 12:00 p.m.
Notre Dame vs. Jacksonville State – 2:00 p.m.
Texas A&M vs. Gonzaga – 4:00 p.m.
Denver vs. Jacksonville State – 6:00 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 12
Jacksonville State vs. Gonzaga – 11:00 a.m.
Notre Dame vs. Denver – 1:00 p.m.

*all times local to site (MT)

– Live chat / stats:
– In-game twitter: @ndvolleyball
– Notre Dame Athletics Twitter: @und_com
– Tickets: / 1.800.745.3000 / also available on day of match

Bump, Set, Spike …
– Head coach Debbie Brown is directing the Irish on the hardwood for the 20th straight season and needs one more win for No. 450 at Notre Dame … Brown is 449-172 (.723) at the helm of the program.
– The Pioneer Classic will serve as a homecoming of sorts for senior Kellie Sciacca, who played her prep ball for Lewis-Palmer in Monument, Colo. … in fact, Sciacca’s family will host a team meal Thursday evening after the squad practices in Denver … the family of sophomore Hilary Eppink, who prepped in Westfield, Ind., currently also lives just outside of Denver.
– Notre Dame has posted 2-1 marks at each of the first two tournaments to open the season … the program has not swept a three-match invitational since 2005, when the Irish downed No. 8 USC, Oklahoma and No. 6 Florida at the UTSA Dome Rally in San Antonio, Texas … the 2005 team finished 30-4 and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament … the Irish won each of their two contests at the 2009 Notre Dame / adidas Invitational with wins over New Mexico State and Wisconsin.

Series Notes …

Series history: Tied, 1-1
Series streak: Notre Dame, W1
First meeting: Sept. 9, 1989 – Gonzaga, 3-1
Last meeting: Sept. 5, 1997 – Notre Dame, 3-0
– It’s been over 20 years since Notre Dame and Gonzaga played each other for the first time, and the two teams have meet once since then … Gonzaga hosted Notre Dame in 1989 and sent the visitors back to South Bend with a 3-1 loss … Notre Dame traveled back to Spokane, Wash., in 1997 for the Spikeoff Spokane round-robin event and redeemed itself with a 3-0 win over the Bulldogs.

Jacksonville State
Series history: First meeting
– Notre Dame is 4-1 all-time against teams from the Ohio Valley Conference and 2-0 under head coach Debbie Brown … the Gamecocks have registered wins over Memphis, Kennesaw State, Long Island and Coastal Carolina this season … Jacksonville State is led offensively by Caitlin Vorbeck’s 3.22 kills/set … Lauren Harkens has accumulated 118 scoops in seven matches for a 5.13 digs/set average.

Series history: Notre Dame leads, 1-0
Series streak: Notre Dame, W1
First / last meeting: Aug. 28, 2009 – Notre Dame, 3-0
– A highly efficient offensive attack spurred Notre Dame to a season-opening win over Denver to start the 2009 campaign as the Irish hit .422 as a squad … it was the first-ever meeting between Notre Dame and Denver … the Pioneers are coming off a 3-0 loss to Northern Colorado earlier this week and were led by nine kills and three blocks by freshman Brea Muhle.

All-All-Tournament-Tournament …
Doubling up on all-tournament honors for the 2010 were senior Kellie Sciacca and freshman Andrea McHugh, who earned the distinction at the Nevada Invitational (Sept. 3-4) … each were also named to the Shamrock Invitational all-tournament team to begin the season … McHugh totaled 43 kills (3.31/set) in three matches with 2.00 digs/set and 0.69 blocks/set … she led Notre Dame in scoring with 52.0 points … Sciacca was her usual steady self with 2.46 kills/set on a .338 clip and 1.31 blocks/set … against Weber State (Sept. 4), Sciacca tied a career best with three solo blocks in three sets.

Reno Aces …
Freshman Nicole Smith did not take many risks from behind the service line during the Nevada Invitational in Reno, Nev., but her performance would have caused plenty of envy from the blackjack players down the way from Virginia Street Gym … Smith fired in a match-high four aces in three sets against Weber State (Sept. 4), including back-to-back-to-back daisies to blow the match open in the opening frame … she is the first Irish freshman to knock down four aces in a single match since Beth Wildermuth, who also had four against California during her freshman season in 2008.

Early Five-Setters …
Through six matches to start the 2010 season, Notre Dame stretched it to the limit with three five-set affairs, winning two of the contests … the three five-setters are the most since 2004, when that squad went the distance in three of its first five matches while dropping two of three.

Sciacca Shreds Shamrock Invite …
Senior middle blocker Kellie Sciacca was named to the Shamrock Invitational all-tournament team for the second straight year after finishing the three-match weekend with 4.00 kills/set and a .429 hitting pct. … she posted a career-high 21 kills on a .645 hitting clip – the fourth-best average ever by a Notre Dame player in a four-set match – on 31 swings with just one error against Marshall (Aug. 27) … Sciacca then came back to help Notre Dame defeat Cal Poly (Aug. 28) with 17 kills and tacked on 10 more versus No. 18 Arizona (Aug. 29) for her third-straight double-figure kill total.

McHugh Has Huge Opening Weekend …
Freshman outside hitter Andrea McHugh was named the BIG EAST Conference Freshman of the Week (Aug. 30) one day after wrapping up her first weekend in an Irish uniform … McHugh registered a pair of double-doubles as her 11 kills and 16 digs against Marshall (Aug. 27) came before 14 kills and 18 digs against Cal Poly (Aug. 28) … she blistered No. 18 Arizona (Aug. 29) with 12 kills and a solo block … McHugh also had an ace in each of her three matches … on the weekend, she averaged 3.08 kills/set and 3.17 digs/set with 3.42 points/set … furthermore, McHugh is the first Irish player to earn the award after the season’s opening weekend since Christina Kaelin did so in 2006.

Wide Openers …
Notre Dame is now 24-7 (19-1 under head coach Debbie Brown) in home openers … the Irish are 20-9 (.689) in the month of August and 18-6 (.750) at home in August.

Preseason Honors …
Notre Dame was picked to finish third in 2010 BIG EAST Conference regular season play, according to a vote of the league’s 15 head coaches … for the first time since joining the BIG EAST in 2005, Cincinnati emerged as the favorite in the BIG EAST Volleyball Preseason Coaches Poll … the Bearcats were unanimously selected, receiving 196 points and all 14 first-place votes. Louisville, the defending tournament champion, was picked second … since the inception of round-robin play in 1990, 19 of the last 20 preseason favorites have advanced to the finals of the BIG EAST Championship … of those favorites, 15 have captured the tournament championship and advanced to the NCAA Championship, while 13 have taken the regular-season title … however, the last team to be selected first in the preseason poll and win the regular-season crown was Notre Dame in 2004 … Kristen Dealy and two-time all-BIG EAST choice Kellie Sciacca both earned spots on the all-BIG EAST preseason team … Sciacca led the conference in league play with a .429 hitting percentage in 2009.

Freshman Class Regarded By …
Notre Dame’s six-person freshman class – Maggie Brindock, Sam Brown, Sammie Brown, Andrea McHugh, Andie Olsen and Nicole Smith – was tabbed by as the nation’s 13th-best recruiting class … the newcomers will help replace six departing seniors which led the Irish to the 2009 BIG EAST Conference regular-season title and a national ranking … Notre Dame received the highest ranking of any BIG EAST member … USC, Penn State and Stanford held the top three spots, respectively, in the rankings … Notre Dame’s departed six-person class from the 2009 season was ranked fifth by in 2006.

Brown Knows How To Win …
Entering 2010, Debbie Brown is first among BIG EAST head coaches with 562 career wins … Louisville’s Leonid Yelin is second with 457 wins in 20 seasons.