First Cornhusker invasion challenges Irish setters
By RACHAEL PROTZMAN
In what is being referred to as "The Battle before the War," Notre Dame volleyball will face Nebraska today hoping for an upset to kick off weekend play.
The No. 22 Irish will host the adidas Invitational in which they will face No. 3 UCLA, No. 4 Nebraska and No. 16 Michigan State.
Notre Dame is currently 3-0 following last weekend's Shamrock Invitational held at the Joyce Center. The Irish topped Fairfield in a three-game victory (15-7, 15-7, 15-10). Senior co-captain Christi Girton led the team with 14 kills and eight digs.
Down by two games, the Irish came back strong to defeat No. 15 BYU (5-15, 10-15, 15-10, 15-10, 15-10). Junior Kristy Kreher had an outstanding match leading the Irish with 23 kills and 17 digs.
"It was great for us to go up against a team like that and see what we could do," said head coach Debbie Brown following last weekend's games. "That win gave us confidence, especially since we have a lot of ranked teams on our schedule. I think that win is going to be really important as we go into the matches against other top teams."
"We're really excited just because being down in the first two games and being able to comeback and actually we were also down in the fifth and beating a ranked team has been a tough thing for us to do in the past couple years.
"We're over the hype of not being able to beat a ranked team and we're excited for this weekend," senior co-captain Denise Boylan said.
Notre Dame ended the weekend with at three-game sweep of Clemson (15-7, 15-8, 15-6). Boylan led the Irish with 49 assists and seven digs.
Nebraska and Notre Dame will play for the seventh time in history. The Cornhuskers hold the upperhand with a 4-2 record against the Irish, including a win at their last meeting in '95 where they swept the Irish 3-0. Nebraska is currently 4-0 following the US Bank Tournament in which they topped No. 13 Colorado State for the title.
On Saturday, the Irish will face No. 3 UCLA for the first time in history. The Bruins are currently 3-2 following two early season losses as well as a win over No. 2 Penn State. After being named No. 1 in preseason polls, the Bruins have fallen to the No. 3 position following losses to No. 13 Colorado State and No. 5 Hawaii.
Notre Dame wraps up the weekend tournament on Sunday as it faces Michigan State. The Spartans have faced the Irish eight times before with a 3-0 sweep at their last meeting in '98. Michigan State is now 3-0 after a sweep of the L&L/MSU Volleyball Classic where it defeated Rutgers, Northeastern and Eastern Washington.
In its 20th varsity season, the Irish hope to use their home court advantage this weekend. Since 1991 Notre Dame has earned a .874 average in the Joyce Center, winning 111 of its 127 matches.
"I think that if we stay aggressive we'll be able to compete," Boylan said.
All Sports Stories for Friday, September 8, 2000