Nov. 14, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - With its eyes on its 10th BIG EAST Tournament title, the University of Notre Dame volleyball team heads to the Al McGuire Center on the campus of Marquette University this weekend as the third seed in the eight-team BIG EAST Tournament field. The Irish get their weekend underway with a 4:30 p.m. (ET) Friday showdown with the No. 6 seed USF Bulls in the quarterfinals.
The winner of the match between the Irish and the Bulls will meet the winner of No. 2 Marquette and No. 7 Pittsburgh Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET. Other quarterfinal matchups include No. 4 seed Connecticut and No. 5 seed Cincinnati getting the tournament started at 11 a.m. ET and regular season champion and No. 1 seed Louisville playing No. 8 seed St. John's at 1:30 p.m. ET.
All quarterfinal matches and both semifinal matches can be followed through live stats or by watching the BIG EAST's free video stream on BIGEAST.org. Sunday's final will be broadcast live on ESPNU with Sam Gore and Kelli Tennant providing the play-by-play and color for the match.
Notre Dame (20-7, 13-2 BIG EAST) ended the regular season in a tie for second place in the league, but was seeded third due to losing the head-to-head tiebreaker with Marquette. The Irish enter the tournament having won 15 of their final 18 matches after opening 5-4 with all four losses coming to teams ranked in the top-20 of the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Top-25 poll.
Last weekend Notre Dame won a 3-2 thriller over Cincinnati at home on senior night after coming back from a 0-2 deficit. The Irish then fell to Marquette in Milwaukee, 3-0, on senior day for the Golden Eagles. Sophomore Toni Alugbue earned a spot on the BIG EAST's Weekly Honor Roll for the fourth time this season after posting a pair of double-doubles on the weekend.
With the win over the Bearcats, Notre Dame head coach Debbie Brown picked up her 500th win as the program's leader. Brown also picked up her 600th career win earlier this season with a 3-1 win over Buffalo.
USF (16-13, 7-8 BIG EAST) clinched a tournament berth and the sixth seed last Sunday with a 3-0 win at home over Georgetown. The Bulls won three of their last four BIG EAST matches over the last two weeks to clinch a spot in the field.
The two squads have already met once this year, as the Irish swept USF Oct. 28 at Purcell Pavilion on Dig Pink day. Notre Dame was led that day by Jeni Houser's 11 kills (.474 hitting percentage) and Hilary Eppink's nine kills (.500 hitting percentage) as the Irish won their eighth straight match.
Last year the Irish made a run to the finals of the tournament by gaining a measure of revenge on Syracuse (3-1) and Louisville (3-1) for regular season losses. Notre Dame fell in the finals to Cincinnati, 3-0.
Overall the Irish have won nine BIG EAST Tournaments, with the last two coming in 2004 and 2005. Notre Dame also won titles from 1995-98 and from 2000-02. They are 31-8 (.795) in BIG EAST Tournament play and have five runner-up finishes in addition to the nine titles.
- Notre Dame is 8-0 all-time against USF, with all eight wins coming in BIG EAST play ... the series began in 2005 ... Notre Dame swept the Bulls, 3-0, on Oct. 28 at Purcell Pavilion.
- While they aren't ranked in the national rankings, the Irish are No. 34 in the NCAA's RPI out of 330 teams and will have a case for an at-large spot in the field should they not win this weekend's BIG EAST Championship ... among the evidence - eight matches against teams that are ranked or receiving votes in this week's AVCA Top-25 poll, including four matches with teams in the top 10 ... the Irish have picked up a pair of ranked wins as Louisville (No. 10) and Kansas (No. 22) both appear in this week's rankings - 20 wins, including 13 in conference play - losses to only six teams, with five of those teams are at least receiving votes in this week's ACVA Top-25 poll, while the sixth team (Loyola Marymount) has an RPI of 48 ... the selection show for this year's NCAA Tournament is scheduled for 4 p.m. (ET) Nov. 25 and can be watched on ESPNU ... 31 conference champions and 33 at-large teams will make up the 64-team field.
- In the BIG EAST stats, a number of Irish performers find themselves in the top five - Toni Alugbue is third in kills (366) and points (425.0) for all matches and fifth in points for BIG EAST-matches only (228.5) - Maggie Brindock is third in assists per set (10.56) for league-matches only - Andie Olsen is fifth in blocks per set (1.15) during conference-matches only ... as a team the Irish appear all over the top of the BIG EAST stats - in BIG EAST-matches only Notre Dame is third in hitting percentage (.272), second in opponent hitting percentage (.173), fourth in assists per set (12.74), third in kills per set (13.75) and first in blocks per set (3.00) ... overall the Irish are third in hitting percentage (.254), fifth in opponent hitting percentage (.181), third in assists per set (12.86), third in kills per set (13.74) and first in blocks per set (2.76).
- After producing 55 kills during the non-conference portion of the schedule (12 matches), senior Hilary Eppink has been on fire once the Irish hit BIG EAST play, tallying 143 kills in BIG EAST play (15 matches) ... Eppink is hitting .332 during the run, which is tops on the team for players over 70 kills, and is averaging 2.51 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 171 kills and is hitting .326, while Eppink has 143 kills and is hitting .332 ... Toni Alugbue leads the team with 189 kills in league play, good for an average of 3.38 per set.
- Freshman libero Taylor Morey has led or tied for the team lead in digs in 24 of 27 matches this season and has reached double-figures in 24 of 27 matches as well ... has eight matches with 20-plus digs ... named BIG EAST Freshman of the Week twice (Aug. 27, Nov. 5)
- After splitting setting duties for much of the first part of the season, junior tri-captain Maggie Brindock has turned in five 50-plus assist matches since Sept. 16 against Kansas ... has 10 matches with 40 or more assists this year.
- Junior Andie Olsen has been the most consistent blocker on the team as she has recorded at least one block in 25 of the 26 matches she has played in ... she leads the Irish with 84 blocks and a 1.02 blocks per set average.
- Toni Alugbue has recorded double-doubles (kills and digs) in 12 matches including five straight matches from Sept. 14 - 23 ... Maggie Brindock also has 12 (assists and digs), including a triple-double on Nov. 4 (12 kills, 38 assists, 11 digs) ... the triple-double was the first for Notre Dame since 2004 and the 22nd in school history ... 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 2-1 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 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 later rallied from a 0-2 hole on senior day against Cincinnati.
- The Irish have broken three winning streaks of seven matches or longer this season ... with a 3-1 win over Kansas (now No. 22), ND broke the Jayhawks' nine-match winning streak ... in a 3-2 come-from-behind win over then No. 10 Louisville (now No. 10), 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 and her 500th match as the leader of the Irish program Nov. 9 against Cincinnati (3-2).