Irish prepare for Big East tourney
By MATT OLIVA
The Notre Dame volleyball team travels to Pittsburgh this weekend for the Big East tournament.
The Irish claimed the top seed and a first round bye after finishing the regular season atop the conference with a perfect 11-0 record. Second place Georgetown, who the Irish narrowly defeated last Sunday to claim the regular season title, also drew a first round bye in the six-team tournament.
The Irish will play their match Saturday afternoon against the winner of the Rutgers-Connecticut match.
A victory on Saturday would place the Irish into the Big East finals on Sunday. Notre Dame is the five-time defending Big East champion and can capture its eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament bid with a win in the final. The Irish have never lost a Big East Tournament match since joining the conference in 1995 and boasts a 9-0 all-time record.
Heading into the tournament, the Irish will look to Mary Leffers and Christi Girton to lead their offense. Girton is first on the team with a 3.96 kills per game average, while Leffers averages 3.28 kills. Junior captain Denise Boylan runs the offense from her setter position, averaging 11.9 assists per game.
Defensively, Notre Dame will look to Girton, Kreher, Emily Shiebout and Keara Coughlin. The four teammates combined to lead the Irish to an average of 13.63 digs per game, compared to their opponent's average of 12.14 digs per game. If the Irish face Connecticut on Saturday, they will have to shut down senior middle blocker Chanice Harris, who averages 3.39 kills and 1.62 blocks per game.
Notre Dame defeated the Huskies in three games this year, 15-9, 15-11, 15-7, and also defeated them last year in the second round.
If Rutgers wins on Friday, the Irish will have to contend with two offensive forces. Scarlet Knight outside hitters Kera Carter and Lola Opadiran both average more than four kills a game.
Rutgers enters the tournament as the fourth seed, after finishing the season with a 15-13 record and an 8-3 mark in Big East play. The Irish beat Rutgers 15-7, 15-9, 15-7 earlier this year and hold a 6-0 all-time record against the Scarlet Knights.
Georgetown will face the winner of the Providence-Syracuse match on the other side of the bracket. The two teams left after Saturday's matches will face each other at noon on Sunday.
The NCAA selection show will follow the tournament one week after the tournament concludes Nov.zj 28 at 10 p.m.
All Sports Stories for Friday, November 19, 1999