Nov. 21, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Irish head coach Debbie Brown earned her fourth BIG EAST Conference Coach of the Year Award — including three in the last four years — and three Notre Dame players were named to the all-conference first team at the annual league awards banquet held Friday night in the South Bend Marriott. The Irish, BIG EAST regular season co-champions, will get underway Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (EST) in the Joyce Center in their quest for an eighth title in the BIG EAST Championship.
Brown, who also was named the league’s top coach in 1995, 2000, and ’01, shared the distinction with Pittsburgh’s Chris Beerman, while senior co-captain S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) and sophomores MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) and MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) grabbed half of the spots on the all-BIG EAST first team. Junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) earned second-team honors.
Brown’s Irish stand at 22-4 this season, the second-best record through 26 matches in school history. Notre Dame is ranked 17th after being listed as high as 12th, the best Irish ranking since 1996. Her team had a 14-match winning streak, stretching nearly two months from mid-September to mid-November, the second-longest stretch in school history. Notre Dame’s regular-season conference co-championship marked its eighth title in nine years since joining the BIG EAST in 1995. The Irish lead the nation in blocking (3.79) and were the top BIG EAST team in conference play in blocking (4.21), hitting percentage (.288), and opponent hitting percentage (.134).
Kinder is an all-BIG EAST selection for the third straight season, after being named to the second team in ’01 and ’02. The 2001 BIG EAST Setter of the Year (an award no longer give n), Kinder is in her third season as the starting Irish setter and her second as a team co-captain. She has helped Notre Dame to a 68-19 (.782) record since taking over as its top setter. In the Notre Dame career record book, Kinder ranks third in assists (3,498) and fourth in assist average (10.80).
This season, Kinder is averaging 9.94 assists per game after splitting time over the first 10 matches in which Notre Dame employed a two-setter offense. In league matches, she averaged 12.12, the fourth-best mark in the conference, while leading Notre Dame to rank first in hitting percentage (.288) and second in kills (16.26) and assists (14.70). Kinder is fourth on the Irish in aces (21/0.22), digs (209/2.19), and hitting percentage (.256).
Since she took over as the full-time setter on Sept. 26, Notre Dame is hitting .275 with 16.02 kills and 14.50 assists per game after hitting .231 with 15.02 kills and 13.23 assists per game in the first 10 matches. She has set Notre Dame to hitting percentages over .250 in 10 of 16 matches since then, including five marks over .350.
Kinder’s 68 assists against Virginia Tech on Nov. 7 were the most by an Irish player since 2000. She was named the BIG EAST Player of the Week on Nov. 10 and leads the Irish with eight double-doubles this season and 26 in her career.
Brewster, who was honorable mention all-BIG EAST as a freshman, has established herself as one of the top middle blockers in the country this season. She leads the BIG EAST Conference and ranks second nationally in individual blocking (163/1.79), while being a key factor in Notre Dame ranking as the top blocking team in Division I (3.73). Brewster also leads the conference in attack percentage (.368) and is tops on the Irish in points (440/4.84), while being second in kills (322/3.54) and third in service aces (22/0.24). She was honored as the BIG EAST Player of the Week three times in the month of October and was one of just two players to win the award on three occasions this season. Brewster also was the MVP of the Shamrock Invitational.
After not doing it at all a year ago, the Irish sophomore has led her team in kills 12 times this season, while being tops in blocks 15 times, hitting percentage 14 times, and points on 13 occasions. She has been the top Notre Dame hitter in 11 of the last 13 matches and has hit over .300 in 18 of 26 contests this season. Brewster has had four or more blocks in all but three matches this season, and has been in on six or more 14 times. She had a career-high 13 blocks twice this season, and has reset her career high in kills three times, most recently with 22 against Virginia Tech.
Her season block average currently ranks as the second-best in Notre Dame history, while her hitting percentage is fifth. Brewster’s career block average of 1.72 is the best in Irish history, and she ranks third in career hitting percentage (.330).
Kelbley, the league’s rookie of the year and a second-team all-conference honoree in 2002, was the only player on the first team who also was a preseason all-conference selection. She is second on the team in blocks (117, 1.24), hitting percentage (.316), and service aces (24/0.26) and third in kills (270/3.38) and points (353/4.41). Kelbley ranks third in the conference in blocking and ninth in attack percentage and was fourth in hitting in league play (.340).
She ranks among the top four on four Irish career lists: hitting percentage (2nd, .333), block average (5th, 1.17), percentage of matches played (T-1st, 1.000), and percentage of games played (3rd, .951). Kelbley, a major reason the Irish lead the nation in blocking, was named BIG EAST Player of the Week twice this season and was the MVP of the Longhorn Classic. She also earned all-tournament honors in the Four Points Sheraton Classic.
Kelbley has led the Irish in blocks 10 times and kills on seven occasions and has hit over .300 in 18 of 26 matches, including 11 matches over .400. She had 10 or more kills in 13 consecutive matches from Sept. 9-Oct. 23, the fourth-longest streak in school history, and has had double-digit kills 22 times overall this season. She has had three or more blocks 19 times.
Loomis was a first-team selection a year ago and was named to the preseason all-conference team this season. She leads the Irish in kills (346/3.60) and is second in points (421/4.39). Loomis is 33 kills away from becoming the 13th Irish player to have 1,000 career kills. She has set two Notre Dame records this season: consecutive matches with 10+ kills (21) and most kills in a match without an error (24 on Sept. 9 vs. Valparaiso).
She ranks ninth in the conference — and fourth on the Irish — in blocking (84/1.07) and, in BIG EAST matches, is fourth in blocking (1.29), eighth in points (4.75), and 10th in kills (3.76). Loomis was named to the all-tournament teams in the Four Points Sheraton Classic and Longhorn Classic and was the first BIG EAST Player of the Week. She led the Irish in kills nine times and has had 10 or more kills 23 times this season. She hit .400 or better in seven of the first 13 matches of the season.
Pittsburgh, the league’s other co-champion, took home three of the four individual awards. Other than Beerman, senior OH Wendy Hatlestad was named BIG EAST Player of the Year and sophomore Megan McGrane was Libero of the Year. Seton Hall’s OH Katherine Whitney was the conference’s top rookie.
Rouding out the first team were Hatlestad, her teammate junior MH Megan Miller, and St. John’s sophomore MH Jackie Ahlers.
Miami, Notre Dame’s semifinal opponent, had two players on the all-BIG EAST second team: senior OH Leyre Santaella Sante and junior RS Valeria Tipiana.
It marked the fourth time Notre Dame placed three players on the all-BIG EAST first team, after doing so in 1995, ’97, and 2000.