Sept. 25, 2002
Notre Dame (8-3) vs. Connecticut (4-7), Friday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m.
Joyce Center, Notre Dame, Ind.
Irish set to begin BIG EAST Conference competition this weekend, playing host to Connecticut and St. John’s:
The University of Notre Dame volleyball team (9-3) opens BIG EAST Conference action this weekend at the Joyce Center against Connecticut (4-7) at 7 p.m.
Friday evening’s match is the first league contest for both teams this season, as Notre Dame begins its quest third-straight BIG EAST Conference regular-season title.
Notre Dame also will face St. John’s (11-7) on Sunday, Sept. 29. The Red Storm will compete at Syracuse on Friday before making the trip to Notre Dame, Ind., for Sunday’s match.
Notre Dame ready to broadcast volleyball matches on www.und.com:
The University of Notre Dame athletic department, in conjuncture with the Official College Sports Network (OCSN), will provide live broadcast of Notre Dame volleyball matches this season. OCSN offers the Fighting Irish Pass, which is a subscription service that allows those involved access to all audio available on www.und.com, including football games, press conferences and interviews.
Notre Dame Assistant Sports Information Director Chris Masters (who worked color commentary for Western Kentucky women’s basketball and volleyball before coming to Notre Dame) will do the play-by-play of the Irish matches this weekend, while Liz Muir, Notre Dame’s Director of Equipment Operations, will step in for color commentary from time to time during the season.
A number of winning streaks on the line this weekend:
Notre Dame has won 29 consecutive matches on the Joyce Center floor, but that is only one of several winning streaks the Irish are looking to extend this weekend. Notre Dame has not lost a regular-season BIG EAST Conference match since a loss at West Virginia on Nov. 15, 1998, a streak of 34 consecutive regular-season wins.
During the regular-season streak, the Irish have lost just one match to a BIG EAST foe, in the 1999 conference championship to Georgetown. Dating back to that setback vs. the Hoyas, Notre Dame has won 27 straight matches against league opponents (including BIG EAST Championship play).
Perhaps the most impressive streak the Irish have compiled is their home court win streak against conference opponents. Since Notre Dame began BIG EAST play in 1995, they have not lost to a BIG EAST team on the Joyce Center floor. That winning streak stands at 43 entering this weekend’s matches.
Notre Dame vs. Connecticut series notes:
The Irish and Huskies will be meeting for the 12th time … Notre Dame holds a 10-1 advantage in the series … the teams met twice last season, with the Irish claiming a four-game victory in Storrs during the regular season and a three-game victory at the BIG EAST Championship in Pittsburgh … Emily Loomis had 12 kills in the regular-season matchup, while Kim Fletcher had 14 kills and six blocks … Melissa Wooley paced the Husky attack in the regular-season match with 20 kills and 12 digs … Fletcher had nine kills and four blocks in the BIG EAST Championship match … Notre Dame is 4-0 against Connecticut in the Joyce Center … Connecticut enters Friday’s match with a 4-7 overall record … Wooley is back to lead the Husky offense, as she has 133 kills (3.59 per game) this season.
Notre Dame in the BIG EAST statistical rankings:
As a team, the Irish are second in the league in hitting (.258), first in blocks (3.63 – a whole 1.01 ahead of Connecticut in second place), fourth in assists (13.62), fourth in opponent hitting percentage (.160) and third in kills (15.31).
As individuals, Lauren Brewster, who is ranked 14th in the country in blocks per game, leads the conference with a 1.51 average. Emily Loomis is third in the conference with a 1.23 average. Jessica Kinder is third in the conference in aces (0.50).
Former role players take advantage of their opportunities:
Although Katie Neff earned the attention-grabbing honors last week after landing her first BIG EAST Conference player of the week award, a number of Irish players have stepped up this season while enjoying the most playing time of their careers.
Junior outside hitter Jessica Kinder leads the team in aces (21) while utilizing her power jump serve and is third in kills (113), fourth in assists (18), second in digs (121) and sixth in blocks (27). She is only three aces away from her career high and has already surpassed her kill total from her first two years combined.
Neff dominated the Golden Dome Invitational on the way to her MVP award, but she has been a consistent presence for the Irish on the right side throughout the entire 2002 season. Neff was used primarily as a middle blocker in her first two years with the Irish, but with the graduation of all-star opposite Kristy Kreher in 2001, Neff worked hard during the offseason to earn a portion of the available playing time. She has emerged as one of the top offensive threats on the Irish roster with 116 kills and 37 blocks.
Notre Dame continues to rank among the best in the country in blocks per game:
Though the Irish did manage to post over 10 team blocks in both matches last week, their blocks per game average slipped to 3.63, dropping them out of their top ranking in the country. Notre Dame is currently ranked third in the nation in blocks per game, behind Long Beach State (3.85) and Florida (3.67).
Follow all Irish home matches via live statistics on the official athletic web site:
The University of Notre Dame official web site, www.und.com, will provide live statistics for all Irish home volleyball matches this season.
The link, http://und.ocsn.com/livestats/w-volley, will be available as soon as the matches start in the Joyce Center. Be advised, however, that the statistics displayed are not official until the game is over. The official boxscore from the match will be posted with the match recap on the www.und.com volleyball home page.
The volleyball match game tracker will provide play-by-play, team statistical breakdowns and a running score board – which is updated just seconds after each play concludes in real time.
Only home matches involving the Fighting Irish will be available on www.und.com.
Irish sets a new standard for consecutive home victories in memorable fashion:
Notre Dame’s victory over #10 Pepperdine extended the Irish home court winning streak to 28 matches. Notre Dame moved the total to 29 with a win over Michigan on Sept. 21. The 29-match streak is the longest in school history, eclipsing the previous mark of 27 matches from Sept. 9, 1993 through Sept. 2, 1995.
The Irish have not lost in the Joyce Center since a three-game setback to #7 Colorado State on Sept. 23, 2000.
During the Irish winning streak at home, they have dropped just seven games while winning 23 matches 3-0. Notre Dame also has won four tournament titles during the streak, including the 2000 BIG EAST Championship, the 2001 and 2002 Shamrock Invitational titles and the 2002 Golden Dome Invitational.
Irish set school records during classic victory over #10 Pepperdine:
The victory over the visiting Waves on Saturday, Sept. 14, was more than just Notre Dame’s first victory over a top-10 opponent since 1995. The win stretched the Irish home court winning streak to a record 28 matches and provided Notre Dame its second home tournament title of the season (combined with the Shamrock Invitational).
The match against the Waves also set two team records. The 30-32, 30-24, 29-31, 30-25 and 15-10 game scores matched the team record for points in a match (134) from Notre Dame’s five-game victory over Illinois State in 2001. The Notre Dame – Pepperdine match also is the longest in the Joyce Center under the new rally scoring rules, as the match ended two hours, 28 minutes after it began (surpassing the Illinois State match by six minutes).
Another team record was set earlier in the tournament, when Notre Dame defeated Loyola College 30-16, 30-16 and 30-14 to win by 44 points, the largest winning margin for the Irish under the new rally scoring method.
Notre Dame utilizing its front row strength to dominate at the net:
The 2001 Irish team posted a 3.42 blocks-per-game average, second to just the ’85 (3.51) and ’88 (3.57) teams.
Entering the match with Connecticut, the Irish are averaging 3.63 blocks per game this season.
Front row specialists Malinda Goralski, Kristy Kreher and Marcie Bomhack graduated last season, but a talented freshman class, combined with some experienced front line players, have shown the ability to improve the Irish defense at the net. In the first 12 matches of the 2002 season, Notre Dame dominated at the net to collect 152 team blocks and have failed to post more than 10 team blocks in just one match this season (vs. Colorado).
Try to hit through this front line:
Notre Dame’s blocking prowess has been well documented this season, but the Irish have some rotations that defy opposing teams to get a shot through. At certain times during a match, Katie Neff (6-5), Lauren Brewster (6-3) and Lauren Kelbley (6-2) are patrolling the net for the Irish defense. Add in 6-1 all-BIG EAST high jumper Emily Loomis and the Irish defensive wall becomes even more impressive.
Neff (37 blocks), Brewster (56), Kelbley (31) and Loomis (49) play a large role in Notre Dame’s 3.63 blocks-per-game average, which ranked third in the nation as of Sept. 22.
Burrell makes first career start against Loyola College:
In an effort to rest starting setter Kristin Kinder for a match later in the day against #10 Pepperdine, Irish head coach Debbie Brown inserted freshman Kelly Burrell into the starting six for the match on Sept. 14, against Loyola College.
Kristen Kinder would need the rest later in the day, as the Irish defeated Pepperdine in five games. Burrell, however, made the most of her first career start by leading Notre Dame to a .374 hitting mark against Loyola. Burrell ended up with 39 assists, which is a team-high for a three-game match this season, as Notre Dame swept the visiting Greyhounds in three games. Burrell added three kills, one ace, seven digs and four blocks to her statistical line and can take comfort knowing that the 30-16, 30-16, 30-14 victory over Loyola is currently the largest victory margin for Notre Dame under the new rally scoring method (44 points).
Libero addition raises dig average:
With the addition of the libero for back row substitutions, the Notre Dame dig average is at 15.05 per game for the 2002 season. Senior libero and tri-captain Janie Alderete leads the team with 138 digs, including 19 against Cincinnati during the Shamrock Invitational and 20 vs. #10 Pepperdine in the Golden Dome Invitational.
Highly-touted freshman class ready to contribute:
Ten returning veterans have combined with six members of the ’02 freshman class to provide head coach Debbie Brown with one of her deepest teams since she took over the Irish program in 1991.
Lauren Brewster, Kelly Burrell, Carolyn Cooper, Meg Henican, Lauren Kelbley and Lindsay Peterson were named Volleyball Magazine’s fifth-rated recruiting class and Student Sports Magazine’s third-rated group.
“The Irish loaded up on tall, talented athletes,” Volleyball Magazine writes.
“In addition to two Fab 50s (#26 Meg Henican and #36 Lauren Brewster), 6-3 middle Carolyn Cooper, 5-11 setter Kelly Burrell, and 6-1 middle Lauren Kelbley are headed for South Bend.”
The ‘Fab 50,’ Volleyball Magazine’s rating of the top 50 recruits in the nation, is one of the premier rankings of incoming freshmen. The list is ranked first through 50 in order of the impact they are expected to make in college volleyball during the next four years. Former Irish stand outs Marilyn Cragin, Jaimie Lee and Mary Leffers, along with current players Kelly Corbett, Kim Fletcher, Kristen Kinder and Emily Loomis have been listed among the ‘Fab 50.’ Henican (ranked 26th) and Brewster (ranked 36th) represent the list for this year’s freshmen group.
Brown and her staff reached across the nation for their six incoming freshmen. Brewster is from Brentwood, Tenn., Burrell hails from Phoenix, Ariz., Cooper calls Houston, Texas, her hometown, Henican is from New Orleans, Kelbley is from Bascom, Ohio, and Peterson is from Mt. Carroll, Ill..
Debbie Brown coaching is in her 12th year as the mentor of the Irish volleyball program:
Debbie Brown has guided the program throughout the 90’s and into the new century, developing the Irish into a volleyball power in the BIG EAST and one of the best programs in the nation. Brown is 285-96 (.748) and has earned numerous coach-of-the-year accolades throughout her 11 years with the Irish, including the 2000 and 2001 BIG EAST Coach of the Year awards.
Notre Dame picked by league coaches to win its third-straight and seventh-overall BIG EAST Championship:
Notre Dame has been picked to win its third-straight league title this year, as voted by the conference head coaches. The Irish received 10 of 13 first-place votes, finishing ahead of Pittsburgh and Rutgers.
Two Irish players landed on the preseason all-BIG EAST squad. Junior setter Kristen Kinder, the 2001 BIG EAST Setter of the Year, and junior middle blocker Kim Fletcher made Notre Dame the only conference team represented by two players on the preseason all-BIG EAST team.
Pittsburgh’s Wendy Hatlestad was named the Preseason BIG EAST Player of the Year.
The top four teams in the conference (which includes 13 teams with the addition of Miami) will qualify for the 2002 BIG EAST Championship in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Nov. 23-24.
Notre Dame has won the last two conference championships, including last season’s showcase in Pittsburgh (defeating Georgetown in five games). The Irish have won their last 27 matches against BIG EAST Conference teams and have posted 34 straight wins in regular-season league action. Notre Dame also is 43-0 at home against BIG EAST Conference opponents.
The NCAA Women’s Volleyball Rules Committee has introduced another rule change that will have a large effect on how the game is played. After the introduction rally scoring in 2001, the 2002 season marks the beginning of the libero era in women’s collegiate volleyball.
A libero (designated back row player) will be allowed in the lineup for the 2002 season.
A defensive specialist that does not count toward the team’s substitutions, the libero can freely replace any player that has rotated to the back row. Unlike traditional substitutions that are administered by the referee, the libero can enter the match any time there is a dead ball.
Since the libero is a defensive player, a certain restrictions have been established on the libero’s offensive capabilities. A libero only plays in the back row and cannot serve or attempt to block a shot. The libero cannot attack the ball above the net, nor can the libero set the ball with an overhead finger pass in the attack zone.
Once the libero comes out of the match, the player must wait at least one point before reentering.
Janie Alderete, Keara Coughlin and Christa Moen might all be seen wearing the libero jersey this season – a jersey that cannot match the color worn by the rest of the team.
Here is a quick look at Notre Dame’s last 29 match victories at home:
Sept. 29, Villanova, W, 3-0
Oct. 1, Georgetown, W, 3-0
Oct. 20, Rutgers, W, 3-0
Oct. 22, Seton Hall, W, 3-0
Nov. 3, Boston College, W, 3-0
Nov. 4, North Carolina, W, 3-0
Nov. 7, Saint Louis, W, 3-0
Nov. 18, Connecticut, W, 3-0*
Nov. 19, Rutgers, W, 3-0*
Aug. 31, SW Texas St., W, 3-0
Sept. 1, Florida Atlantic, W, 3-0
Sept. 1, Idaho, W, 3-1
Sept. 18, Valparaiso, W, 3-0
Sept. 22, Syracuse, W, 3-0
Sept. 28, Virginia Tech, W, 3-0
Sept. 30, Georgetown, W, 3-1
Oct. 12, Villanova, W, 3-0
Oct. 14, Rutgers, W, 3-0
Nov. 9, St. John’s, W, 3-0
Nov. 11, Seton Hall, W, 3-0
Nov. 14, Illinois State, W, 3-2
Aug. 30, UW-Milwaukee, W, 3-0
Aug. 31, Cincinnati, W, 3-0
Sept. 1, Cal Poly, W, 3-0
Sept. 13, Northwestern, W, 3-0
Sept. 14, Loyola College, W, 3-0
Sept. 14, Pepperdine, W, 3-2
Sept. 21, Michigan, W, 3-1
* – 2000 BIG EAST Championship