Irish set to hold on to first place against Eagles, Friars
By MATT OLIVA
The Notre Dame volleyball team travels east this weekend to take on two conference opponents, looking to remain undefeated in the Big East and in first place.
The Irish (12-6, 6-0) will take on the Boston College Eagles on Saturday and then travel to play the Providence Friars Sunday. Notre Dame has never lost to either school, posting a 5-0 mark against Boston College and a 4-0 record against Providence.
The Irish have performed well on offense all season in their Big East matches. Christi Girton, Kristi Kreher, and senior captain Mary Leffers all are averaging over three kills per game. Girton leads the team with an average of 3.74 kills, while Kreher and Leffers are right behind her, averaging 3.22 and 3.31 kills respectively. Co-captain Denise Boylan has been running the Irish offense at setter. She has averaged just under 12 assists per game.
Defensively the Irish have not been as strong as they would have liked. Kreher and Girton have both contributed more than two digs per game, while Leffers has been solid with her blocking, averaging 1.78 blocks. Despite these individual efforts, the Irish feel that their defense needs improvement.
"We had a lot to work on after the BYU and Utah matches," said Leffers. "We haven't had much practice time until this week, but we tried to break things down on offense and defense. We need to pick up our entire game, but especially our passing and defensive ability. On offense we are trying to make plays rather than just hit the ball."
Boston College enters the game with a 10-13 overall mark, having won two of their six conference games so far. The Eagles two conference victories have come against the Huskies of Connecticut and the Villanova Wildcats.
The Eagles are led by junior outside hitter Julia El-Hag and junior middle-blocker Kristin Sprinkel. El-Hag is averaging 2.58 kills per game and a team-best 3.39 digs per game, while Sprinkel leads the team in both blocks (0.84) and service aces (0.41) per game. Setter Kyleen Charlton runs the Eagle offense with a 9.94 assists per game average.
"They have an aggressive setter," said Leffers. "Our team has struggled with dominant setters in the past, so that will be a key for us."
On Sunday, Notre Dame will face a Providence team led by sophomore outside hitter Sarah Katinger, who averages a Big East leading 4.84 kills per game. Sophomore Annie Cella also is a threat offensively with her 3.63 kills per game and team-leading 3.93 digs per game. Providence has defeated Big East opponents St. John's, Villanova, Seton Hall and Rutgers and is currently on a five-match win streak.
The Irish expect to remain undefeated after this weekend and to stay in first place in the Big East standings. With five more conference games this season, Notre Dame needs to keep its conference streak alive.
"We expect to go into the tournament as number one," Leffers said. "But we still have a lot of games to play."
All Sports Stories for Friday, October 29, 1999