Sep 21, 2012, 10:33 AM EDT
Notre Dame is slated to play Friday evening against Cincinnati, but don’t let the Bearcats’ 2-10 record deceive you. Last season, UC was consistently atop the BIG EAST standings, and received an NCAA tournament berth after defeating none other than Notre Dame 3-0 in the BIG EAST Championship game in Milwaukee. In fact, eight of Cincinnati’s 10 losses have come at the hands of currently ranked teams including Texas (No. 9) and Florida State (No. 15). As the old saying goes, no opponent can be taken lightly, regardless of their record.
The schedule certainly doesn’t get any easier Sunday as Notre Dame faces No. 10 Louisville, also on the road. The preseason favorite Cardinals are flying high from an 11-1 record entering conference play. Look for the Irish to target and slow down Lola Arslanbekova, the league’s preseason player of the year.
Historically, Notre Dame has started conference play on the right foot by winning 16 of its 17 league openers. The Irish have also begun conference play 2-0 in 15 of its 17 seasons as a member of the BIG EAST. These two road tests stand in the way of a four game home stand at Purcell Pavilion beginning September 29. And if there’s one thing Coach Debbie Brown has on her mind, it’s taking the season one set and one game at a time. Luckily for the Irish, they’ve been able to move on to future opponents without the lingering side effects of previous heartbreaking losses to ranked teams.
Forget all of the numbers for just a moment. Come Friday, none of that will matter. Because rekindled rivalries against familiar foes, a chance to start the second half on a fresh note, and the opportunity to lift your team to greatness awaits. Welcome to conference play.
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