Notre Dame defends No.1 ranking against Syracuse
By MATT OLIVA
On Saturday, the Notre Dame volleyball team will host Syracuse in the last home match of the season.
The Irish, currently No. 1 in the Big East with an 8-0 conference record, bring a 15-6 record into the meeting.
The game is the final career home contest for Irish seniors Mary Leffers, Emily Shiebout and Lauren Stettin.
Syracuse has had a rough season so far.
The Orangemen's overall record is 17-11, and they are 4-4 in Big East play.
Of the eight conference matches it has played so far, five have gone the distance, with Syracuse winning only twice.
The team is led by outside hitter Rachel Watson and opposite Dana Fiume, who recorded her first career triple-double in the team's loss to Providence last weekend.
"Their strength is in the right side attack," said Irish head coach Debbie Brown. "Fortunately we see it every day in practice with Kristy Kreher. We also know that Big East teams are going to take risks, serving aggressively against us. Our siding-out has been good and we will work on that in practice."
The Irish lead the all-time series between the two schools with six straight victories, including a 15-8, 15-4, 7-15, 16-14 win at home a year ago. Syracuse's first and only win over Notre Dame came back in 1981.
Notre Dame is led by Leffers on offense. She leads the Irish in both hitting percentage and blocks per game.
The middle blocker is second nationally in blocks per game with a 1.78 mark behind Heather Bown, of Hawaii, who boasts a 2.29 per-game average.
Leffers is the all-time Notre Dame career leader in hitting percentage (.298) and second in total blocks (529) and block average (1.41).
As a team, the Irish appeared for the third time among the nation's leaders in hitting percentage with a .275 average (17th overall).
The Irish also rank seventh overall for the second-straight week in blocks per game with a 3.28 mark.
All Sports Stories for Friday, November 5, 1999