Junior Hilary Eppink

Cincinnati Bears Down On Irish In BIG EAST Title Bout

Nov. 20, 2011

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MILWAUKEE – In its bid to become the lowest seeded team ever to win a BIG EAST Conference Championship title, the Notre Dame volleyball squad was denied the hardware following a 3-0 (25-22, 25-21, 27-25) loss to second-seeded Cincinnati Sunday at the Al McGuire Center.

As a national audience watched on ESPNU to see if fifth-seeded Notre Dame could overcome the odds and take out a higher seeded team for the third straight day to capture its 10th league crown since joining the BIG EAST in 1995, Emily Hayden stole the spotlight with 10 kills (.438) and Missy Harpenau had seven kills, 12 digs and four blocks to earn the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award.

Having already avenged regular-season losses to Syracuse and Louisville in the first two rounds of the BIG EAST Championship, Notre Dame (17-12) had a chance to triplicate the feat when it took to the court with Cincinnati.

Cincinnati (25-8) entered the contest on an 11-match winning streak and defeated Notre Dame during the regular season, 3-1. The Bearcats now receive the league’s automatic bid into the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

The Bearcats had previously been handed a loss in each of the two previous conference finals and knocked Notre Dame out of the second round of the 2010 BIG EAST Championship.

Sophomore Maggie Brindock christened the match with an ace as the Irish took the next point on freshman Toni Alugbue’s kill to steadily handle the Bearcats for much of the period.

Notre Dame was perfect on each of its first five swats and its eighth kill came from senior Kristen Dealy out of the back row at 15-11.

Dealy was named to the all-tournament team for the fourth time in as many seasons after finishing with 13 kills and six digs.

Freshman Jeni Houser also was named to the all-tournament team after knocking down 11 kills in the finale.

Cincinnati came all the way back from a 21-16 deficit to force an Irish timeout at 21-20 and tied it at 22-22 with its ninth block of the set and recorded a 10th rejection to take set point.

The Bearcats trailed by five points on three occasions in the opener before ending the stanza on a 9-1 tear.

Dealy halted Cincinnati’s 5-0 run in the second with her fifth kill to cut the Bearcat lead to 8-6. Chopping back to bring the Irish within a pair at 18-16 was Dealy once again, who struck her eighth kill in 17 attempts.

Deay’s efforts on the offensive side of the net were not enough to counter a Cincinnati offense that hit .406 in the set after posting a .059 clip in the first stanza. Notre Dame followed its .000 mark in the first with a .265 average.

Set three became knotted at 7-7 courtesy of senior Frenchy Silva’s ace and the Irish went ahead, 13-12, when sophomore Andrea McHugh also did the deed from behind the service line. Silva laced another ace at 15-13.

That lead was somewhat short lived as Jordanne Scott put the Bearcats on top with a kill at 17-16, but that would not give Cincinnati enough of a boost to stay in cruise control.

The ace spaded Cincinnati again when Notre Dame took a 22-21 lead on McHugh’s stroke. Cincinnati came through with an ace of its own from Caylin Mahoney to get back on top, 24-23. Notre Dame held off championship point until Megan Turner struck the match-winner at 27-25.

Notre Dame now travels to Dayton next Friday (Nov. 25) for a non-conference affair beginning at 7:00 p.m. (ET).