Vandy women - Notre Dame preview

It's happened before. Twice last year Vanderbilt knocked off the No. 3 and No. 2 ranked teams in the country. Ask Auburn, which suffered both defeats and one in the SEC Championship, if Vanderbilt (11-1) has a chance against unbeaten Notre Dame (11-0). Vanderbilt team leaders Merideth Marsh and Jence Rhoads speak up about the potential for an upset in Thursday's match against the Fighting Irish.

With the non-conference season nearly over and done in 2009, there is one more hurdle yet to cross for No. 18/16 Vanderbilt. Awaiting New Year's Eve is an opportunity and a learning experience with third ranked Notre Dame. Vandy came up short 59-57 in a loss to the Fighting Irish last season after building an 18-point lead early in the second half.

But history doesn't have to repeat itself. Making the trek to the esteemed campus for the first time since the late 1990s, Vanderbilt has believers in senior guard Merideth Marsh and junior point guard Jence Rhoads.

"We scouted them yesterday and we match up very well," Merideth commented. "That's good to know. I'm not scared. I'm ready to go up there and play a team that is known, that's good and has solid players like in the SEC. I'm excited to see what we're going to do."

Jence, who will be celebrating a birthday on Thursday, will have a number of family members in attendance. She believes a win is not out of the question. "We all know it's possible. We don't think this team is any better than us. They're a very good team and we need to bring our A game to beat them, but they are not unbeatable in any respect."

As you might expect, a Vanderbilt W against the Big East power would be sweet. Jence concurs: "It would make my birthday!"

Toppling Notre Dame may be a possibility but it won't be easy. This is the best start for the Fighting Irish since 2001 when the team went 34-2 and won the national championship. Averaging 83.7 points per game (VU averages 78.6), the team ranks in the Top 10 statistically in six categories, and owns a 27.1 margin of victory for fifth in the nation. Notre Dame has not lost a home game since February 11, 2009 when they fell 66-71 to Louisville.

Merideth sees the match as a test that Vandy's scholar athletes want to pass. "We didn't have the toughest pre-season schedule, but this game will be a test for us. Not just a test to see where we're at or what we're made of, but a test of our confidence. It's a game where we have absolutely nothing to lose. All the other games we were expected to win, whether it was by one point or by 45 points. No one expects that we'll go up there and play the No. 3 team and beat them. Whatever happens there will build our confidence and get us ready for Ole Miss. We're in a great position. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain from it."

Nearly 100 Vandy fans and players' friends and family are expected to join the crowd in Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. They will have to yell loud – blue and gold attendance averages 6,000 to 8,400 per game.

Catch the 1 p.m. CST game live on cable television channel CBS College Sports or listen to the ever-colorful Charlie Mattos on 560-AM WNSR radio. SEC action kicks off Sunday when Vanderbilt plays Ole Miss at 2 p.m. CST at home. Top Stories