Dec. 4, 2009
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Three Notre Dame players finished with double-figure kills against Ohio in opening-round action of the 2009 NCAA Volleyball Tournament, but the Bobcats won the final two sets to outlast the Irish in a 3-2 (23-25, 25-16, 20-25, 25-15, 15-7) affair Friday at Michigan’s Cliff Keen Arena. Kellie Sciacca had 16 kills with Christina Kaelin adding 10 more. Kristen Dealy logged her ninth double-double of the season with 10 kills and 16 digs.
Ohio (27-6), the Mid-American Conference Tournament champion, benefitted from 19 Ellen Herman kills as Sue Jacobi tacked on 18. Herman also had 26 kills during the two program’s last meeting in 2007, a 3-1 Ohio win. The Bobcats aced Notre Dame 10 times while hitting .236. Notre Dame swung at a .125 rate.
“Although the outcome was not what we had hoped for, I’m extremely proud of our team and their effort tonight, and Ohio deserves plenty of credit for earning the win,” Irish head coach Debbie Brown said. “We’ve battled through injuries lately and persevered many times throughout the season. This team will miss our very special six-person senior class.”
Jamel Nicholas had 40 assists and 10 digs with Frenchy Silva scooping 15 shots. Ohio had four players with at least 10 digs, led by Sarah Petrulis’ 23. Meghan Simons and Katie Post each had six blocks.
Notre Dame finished the year with a 21-7 overall record after going 15-0 in BIG EAST regular-season play. The Irish secured the program’s 19th winning season, each of which have been under the direction of Brown, and earned an 11th BIG EAST regular season championship. The team’s 15-match winning streak earlier this season tied for the second-longest in program history.
Serinity Phillips and Megan Barnicle tag-teamed a Bobcat attack for the first Irish point after giving up a pair to Ohio to begin the match. Sciacca took a Nicholas backset to bring the Irish to within one, 4-3, and then pushed a tip to the back corner one play later to tie the set. Phillips gave Notre Dame its first lead at 5-4 with a roller to the middle of the Bobcat defense. Ohio used consecutive service aces to earn a 9-8 lead and stretched that to 12-10 after an Irish service error. But Ohio committed five straight errors to give Notre Dame a 15-12 lead. The set was tied again at 16-16 on a Bobcat block and the Irish regained the lead, 19-18, on a Bobcat hitting error. Kaelin returned an overpass (21-19) to force an Ohio timeout and hammered another at 23-21. Herman tied it with a shot from the left side (23-23), with Kaelin answering with an attack off the block. Megan Fesl and Barnicle recorded the clinching block on set point.
The Irish hit .235 in the first, bettering Ohio’s output of .075. Sciacca led Notre Dame with five kills on eight swings. Nicole Staverman had two aces for the Bobcats.
Dealy started the next frame with a rifle from the second level and Fesl dropped a dandy from the right side early. Ohio went ahead by four (6-2) and won another point on an extended rally to bump ahead, 7-3. Herman, who had seven kills in the set, followed with an ace and the Bobcats proceeded to take an 11-4 lead on a block by Faith Robins and Post. Nicholas dumped one over at 11-5 and another at 15-9 as Notre Dame managed seven more scores after that point, three of those coming off Kaelin swings.
Ohio hit at a .323 pace while Notre Dame hit .027 in the second.
Sparking the Irish to begin the third was Dealy, crushing a Nicholas dish at 6-3. Nicholas found the back corner for her third kill of the match (7-3) and Dealy’s delicate floater doubled Ohio’s total at 10-5. Ohio scored four of the next five, giving way for the Irish to come right back and take a 15-9 lead on Dealy’s rocket. Sciacca continued to produce on the slide, recording her 10th kill of the match at 19-13. Notre Dame’s only ace of the match came from Dealy (21-13), and Ohio responded with back-to-back blocks during a rally that cut the Irish lead to 22-18. Following a Notre Dame timeout the teams traded scores as Kaelin’s overpass on set point fell for the final tally.
Sciacca’s five kills in the set led all players. Dealy and Silva each had five digs.
Herman opened the fourth with a pair of aces which helped give the Bobcats a 5-0 lead. A third Bobcat ace, this time from Petrulis, boosted Ohio’s advantage to 7-1. Sciacca’s bouncer brought the Irish to within 9-4, answered by a Herman kill from the left side. Going off the block at 12-7 was Kaelin and Phillips connected with a backrow attack at 17-10. The Irish came within six (17-11) on a Bobcat attack error and finished the frame with just six kills.
The first three Notre Dame points of the fifth came from Sciacca sliders. Ohio was the first team to take a two-point lead (5-3) and forced an Irish timeout by taking a 7-4 lead. Barnicle kept the Irish within striking distance (10-6) but Ohio finished the Irish by taking five of the next seven points.