Oct. 24, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame volleyball team (11-6, 4-0 BIG EAST) turned in its best offensive performance of the season, hitting over .330 in every game and finishing with a .356 attack percentage en route to a 30-16, 30-17, 30-20 triumph against St. John’s (14-9, 0-4 BIG EAST) Sunday afternoon before a crowd of 2,086 in the Joyce Center. Among the highlights for the Irish was near-perfect hitting by freshman OPP Adrianna Stasiuk (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South H.S.) through the first two games.
Notre Dame had its most consistent offensive match of the 2004 campaign and ended up with 49 kills and a season-low 13 errors. Both the final hitting mark and the error totals were the best for the Irish since Nov. 15, 2003, when they made only eight errors in hitting .358 at West Virginia. Freshman Ashley Tarutis (Long Beach, Calif./Los Alamitos H.S.) and junior Kelly Burrell (Phoenix, Ariz./Xavier Preparatory School) set Notre Dame to hitting percentages above .300 in every game, a first for the 2004 squad.
Stasiuk was extremely efficient for the Irish, ending up with 11 kills on just 14 swings for a .643 attack percentage. For a time, she was challenging the school record for hitting in a match (.923 by Mary Kay Waller vs. DePaul in 1986), as she finished game two with 11 kills and no errors on 12 attempts, a mark of .917. She then was blocked and committed an error on her only two swings in the final game. Stasiuk’s hitting mark was a collegiate high for her, besting her previous high (.458 vs. Sacramento State) by nearly .200. It also stands as the second-best hitting mark by any Notre Dame player in ’04.
Junior MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) led all players in kills with 12 on 23 attempts for a .435 hitting mark. It was her 15th consecutive match with 11 or more kills, which is the fourth-longest streak of double-digit-kill performances ever by an Irish player. She also led all players with 15.5 points.
Senior OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) hit double-digit kills for the fourth time in five matches, using an impressive third game to finish with 10 on a .304 hitting mark. In the final stanza, she slammed seven kills on 13 errorless swings for a .538 attack percentage.
Junior OH Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) came on late – with three kills on .375 hitting in the third game – to finish with seven kills, and junior MB Carolyn Cooper (Houston, Texas/Lutheran South Academy) turned her six attack attempts into four kills for a .500 mark.
Sophomore MB Julie McElroy (Ames, Iowa/Ames H.S.) and freshman OPP Laura Bresnahan (Elmhurst, Ill./York Community H.S.) each registered their first career kill, as well. McElroy notched hers late in the second game on a Red Storm overpass, while Bresnahan converted her first swing upon entering the match in the third game into a kill. Despite playing for just nine points, Bresnahan also scrambled for three digs and had an assist, cracking those two statistical columns for the first time as a collegian.
Though Notre Dame’s offense was the big story, its defense also was exceptional. The Irish held St. John’s to negative hitting through two games and a .048 attack percentage for the match. The Red Storm ended with 34 kills and 28 errors, with 10 of them coming on Notre Dame blocks.
The most impressive aspect of the Irish defense was its ability to shut down SJU outside hitter Jackie Ahlers, a first-team all-BIG EAST and honorable mention All-America selection in 2003. Ahlers, who came into the week leading the conference and ranking eighth in Division I in kills (5.56 per game), had just six kills and nine errors – with eight of those coming on Notre Dame blocks – for a -.130 hitting mark. She came into the week with a .322 hitting percentage that was seventh in the conference leaders. Ahlers also was tops in the BIG EAST in points, averaging 6.03 per game, but she managed only 6.5 in the entire match on Sunday.
Brewster paced Notre Dame’s block, taking part in six of them, including a solo stuff of an Ahlers attempt in the third game. Loomis, Kelbley, and Cooper took part in four apiece.
The Irish outdug their opponents for the first time in four matches, ending with a 46-36 advantage in that department to extend their winning streak to 25 matches in a row when outdigging their opponents. Junior captain L Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) paced Notre Dame with 10 digs, while Stasiuk added nine and sophomore DS Danielle Herndon (Plant City, Fla./Durant H.S.) added eight. In all, 11 different Notre Dame players registered digs.
Notre Dame also served well, ending with five aces and just four errors. It was the first time in eight matches that the Irish served up more aces than errors and the four misses were a season low. Kelbley and Tarutis both had two aces, while Stasiuk’s jump serve yielded one without committing an error.
The crowd taking in the match – which also took part in various promotions, including Big Top Day and an Irish Spikers postmatch clinic – was the fifth-largest ever to watch a volleyball match in the Joyce Center. It was the second-largest attendance for a match not played immediately before a football pep rally, trailing only the 2,715 that saw Notre Dame sweep Miami on Nov. 9, 2003, in a match televised by College Sports Television. Sunday’s also was the largest crowd to see Notre Dame in any venue since that match with the Hurricanes. Four of the six home matches this season for the Irish have attracted more than 1,000 fans, and Notre Dame boasts an average attendance of 1,250. Heading into the match, the Irish ranked 22nd in Division I – and first in the AVCA Northeast Region – in volleyball attendance.
The first game was close early. St. John’s used a service ace to take its only lead of the frame at 5-4, but the score was tied at 8-8 before Notre Dame got kills from Kelbley and Stasiuk and a Tarutis ace to take control and incite a 22-8 run to end the game. Stasiuk led the Irish with five kills on six errorless swings (.833), while Brewster also didn’t make an error in six attempts, converting four for kills (.667). Notre Dame hit .333 in the game and notched six blocks (four against Ahlers), with Brewster taking part in all but one.
SJU also had one brief early lead in the second frame, going up 6-5 before the Irish won eight of the next nine points on the way to a longer 21-6 run. The Red Storm, who trailed by as many as 15, fought back at the end, winning six of the final 10 points, but a kill from Stasiuk – her sixth in as many attempts in the game – finally clinched the game. Brewster had five kills on .400 hitting in the stanza.
The Red Storm led 1-0 and 2-1 in the third game before Notre Dame took over. St. John’s cut the lead to 16-13, but then Notre Dame won six of the next seven points and used another late run on Cooper’s serve to close out the victory. The final game was the best for the Irish offense, which had 18 kills on .368 hitting.
The 37-point victory is tied for the third-largest margin for the Irish since the 30-point scoring format was adopted in 2001. It was the most-lopsided win for Notre Dame since it topped Rutgers 30-13, 30-18, 30-22 on Oct. 12, 2003, in the Joyce Center.
Notre Dame opened 4-0 in BIG EAST Conference play for the ninth time in 10 seasons as a league member. The Irish are tied atop the standings with Connecticut and fellow defending co-champion Pittsburgh. Notre Dame will face both of those teams in the Joyce Center next month, as the Huskies visit on Friday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. and the Panthers will be in town on Friday, Nov. 12 at 4 p.m. in a match to directly precede the pep rally for the matchup between the schools in football the following day. UConn will first be at Pittsburgh next Sunday, Oct. 31, at 2 p.m. in a battle of conference unbeatens.
The Irish have won all 10 meetings with St. John’s, capturing 30 of 31 games.
Notre Dame will finally conclude a stretch that has seen it play 13 of 15 matches away from home, when the Irish travel to Georgetown (Saturday, 2 p.m. EDT) and Villanova (Sunday, 1 p.m. EST) next weekend.