Nov. 19, 2005
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Senior All-American MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) was in on 11 of her team’s 17 blocks, as the eighth-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s volleyball team (26-2) shut down Cincinnati’s (19-11) offense in a 30-20, 30-20, 30-14 victory in the semifinals of the BIG EAST Conference Championship Saturday afternoon in the Kentucky International Convention Center. The Irish – who held the Bearcats to fewer than 10 kills in every game and a -.057 hitting mark for the match – will look for their ninth BIG EAST tournament title on Sunday, when they face #7 Louisville (25-1) in the title match at 3 p.m. (EST). That contest will be shown live on College Sports Television (channel 149 on Time-Warner Cable in Mishawaka, channel 610 on DirecTV, channel 152 on Dish Network).
The Irish averaged 5.67 blocks per game and also had 51 digs (17.00 per game) in holding Cincinnati to just 27 kills and 34 attack errors. The Bearcats had more kills than errors in just one game (9 K, 8 E in the second) and posted the lowest hitting percentage by an Irish opponent since St. John’s hit -.101 (23-33-99) on Nov. 9, 2001. It is the lowest mark by an ND foe in the BIG EAST tournament, supplanting a .009 hitting match by Villanova in the 1995 semifinals. It also was the fewest kills ever allowed by the Irish in the event, after that VU team had 30. Notre Dame matched its season high in blocks in a three-game affair (first done against Georgetown) and has accounted for 34 blocks in the first two matches of this tournament, an average of 4.86 per game. Brewster is averaging 2.71 per game, and four other Irish players are at 1.00 per game or more.
Brewster had two solo blocks and was in on nine others to match the highest individual blocking total by a Notre Dame player in a three-game match in the 15-year Debbie Brown era. Brewster also had 11 blocks in three games against Boston College on Oct. 24, 2003, and Malinda Goralski equaled that total on Nov. 18, 2000, against Connecticut in the semifinals of the BIG EAST Championship. The Notre Dame All-American turned in her second-highest total of the season in a match of any length, behind only a 12-block output in a five-game win vs. #11 Texas. It also was the second-highest sum ever by an Irish player in a BIG EAST tournament match, behind Brewster’s 12 in the ’02 final vs. Miami. Saturday marked the 16th time in her career that she has posted 10+ blocks in a match.
Sophomore setter Ashley Tarutis (Long Beach, Calif./Los Alamitos H.S.) posted a career high of five blocks in Friday’s quarterfinals vs. Villanova and then equaled that sum on Saturday, including posting the fifth solo block of her career (second in as many days). Sophomore OH Ellen Heintzman (Louisville, Ky./Sacred Heart Academy) also matched her career high in blocks, finishing with five. She previously had that many against Northern Iowa in 2004 and this year at Illinois State. Senior OH Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) took part in four blocks, including a pair of solo efforts, and senior MB Carolyn Cooper (Houston, Texas/Lutheran South Academy) had three to go with an outstanding offensive performance.
Senior libero and co-captain Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) led the floor defense with a match-high 18 digs, including 11 in the opening game. She has had 10 or more digs in 23 consecutive matches, the second-longest string in school history behind her own streak of 32 in a row that was snapped in September. Sophomore OH Adrianna Stasiuk (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South H.S.) posted 10 digs, her 20th match with double figures in that category this season. Tarutis added eight, and junior DS Danielle Herndon (Plant City, Fla./Durant H.S.) posted six.
Tarutis led her offense to a .283 hitting percentage. Cooper led all players and matched her season high with 11 kills. Those came without an error on just 16 swings for a .688 hitting mark, the second-highest of her career. It is the second-best hitting mark ever by an Irish player in the BIG EAST tournament, behind only Lindsay Treadwell’s .800 (8 kills, 0 errors, 10 attempts) in the 1996 semifinals against Syracuse. She also led the team with 13.5 points. Heintzman added eight kills, and Kelbley and Stasiuk had seven each. The senior’s kills came on just 14 swings for a .429 hitting mark. Tarutis also had three kills on six swings.
Notre Dame has won all five all-time meetings with Cincinnati and has now taken 13 consecutive games, dating back to the schools’ first-ever meeting, in 1987. The Irish also earned their 18th three-game victory of the season.
ND is in the title match of the BIG EAST Championship for the 11th time in as many years of league membership. The Irish have won eight titles, having lost only to Georgetown in 1999 and to Pittsburgh in 2003.
Notre Dame and Louisville played in regular-season action on Oct. 29 in the Joyce Center, and the seventh-ranked Irish prevailed over #6 U of L 30-28, 30-28, 27-30, 30-27. Stasiuk had 21 kills and 18 digs, while Brewster pounded 20 kills on .366 hitting. Henican posted 22 digs, and Notre Dame used strong serving and receiving to win. Sunday will make 2005 the first season in which the Irish have taken part in multiple matchups of top-10 squads. It also will be the only top-10 showdown in Division I this week.
Louisville, which shared the regular-season conference championship with the Irish (13-1 record), took four games to defeat Marquette in the quarterfinals of the league tournament and then beat second-seeded Syracuse 3-1 on Saturday afternoon. The Cardinals, who had won 20 in a row to start the season before losing to the Irish, have lost just once this season.
Cincinnati was led by the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year, redshirt freshman MB Jessie Nevitt, who had 13 kills on .368 hitting to go with six blocks after managing only a single kill in the regular-season matchup. Freshman libero Melissa Zenz led the defense with a dozen digs.
The opening game was defined by Notre Dame’s defense, which used seven blocks and 24 digs to hold Cincinnati to nine kills and 12 errors for a -.062 hitting mark. Brewster and Henican were both spectacular, posting five blocks (two solo) and 11 digs, respectively. Stasiuk also added seven digs, while Tarutis had a pair of blocks and three digs, and Heintzman had a solo and an assisted block. ND – which hit .297 – trailed 12-11, but then won seven straight points to pull away.
Notre Dame started quickly in game two, but Cincinnati rallied to tie the score at 10-10. The Irish then edged ahead and used a 7-1 run to go up 21-14 and were able to hold that advantage the rest of the way. ND again was strong defensively, as Cincinnati managed only nine kills and eight errors for a .026 attack percentage. The Irish hit .314 for the game.
ND took control of the final game quickly, winning seven of the first eight points. The Bearcats cut the lead to four at 13-9, but the Irish then went on a 15-3 run, including nine straight points on the strong serving of Herndon, to put the game away. Cincinnati had just nine kills and 14 errors for a -.143 hitting mark.
Cincinnati (19-11) 20-20-14#8 Notre Dame (26-2) 30-30-30
Kills: UC 27 (Nevitt 10), ND 41 (Cooper 11)Attack Percentage: UC -.057 (Nevitt .368), ND .283 (Cooper .688)Assists: UC 23 (Olson 21), ND 39 (Tarutis 35)Service Aces-Errors: UC 2-7 (Pongonis & Dossman 1), ND 3-11 (three players, 1)Digs: UC 38 (Zenz 12), ND 51 (Henican 18)Blocks: UC 8 (Nevitt 6), ND 17 (Brewster 11)Points: UC 37 (Nevitt 13.5), ND 61 (Cooper 13.5)