Sept. 12, 2008
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Trailing 2-0 to the sixteenth-ranked team in the nation, the Notre Dame volleyball team staged a late rally but fell to Cal Poly, 3-1 (25-20, 25-16, 19-25, 25-21) Friday evening at the Sports Pavilion. The loss on the opening day of Minnesota’s Diet Coke Classic dropped Notre Dame’s overall record to 3-4 as the Mustangs improved to 5-2.
Senior middle blocker Justine Stremick made her season debut after missing the first six matches of the year while recovering from offseason surgery. Her presence was felt as she posted eight blocks and three kills in only three sets played for the Irish. Freshman Kristen Dealy paced Notre Dame in the kill column with 14 as junior Serinity Phillips chipped in 10 kills, five blocks and 12 digs. Double-figure digs were also registered by freshman Beth Wildermuth (12) and junior Jamel Nicholas (10). Three service aces by Frenchy Silva gave the freshman match-high honors.
Cal Poly was led by 16 kills from both Ali Waller and Kylie Atherstone. Jaclyn Houston assisted on 52 kills and Alison Mort had 22 digs.
Dealy locked in with five kills on 12 swings to start the match for the Irish. She also cleanly fielded 13 serves on the defensive end of the net. Waller had five kills for the Mustangs in the initial frame as her squad posted a .444 hitting percentage. The Irish stayed within a few points of Cal Poly but could not gain enough momentum to overcome the deficit. Nicholas tossed up a pair of aces to cut it to 20-18 before Cal Poly scored five of the next seven.
Both Dealy and Phillips connected on four kills in a second set in which Notre Dame could only convert 10 kills as a team. The Irish posted a .158 average with Cal Poly swinging at a .226 rate. Notre Dame fell behind early and trailed by as many as nine until the final score was settled by that margin.
Junior Christina Kaelin and Stremick teamed for a block to tie set three at 10-10. Kaelin tied the set at 11-11 with a kill from the right side that found the opposite corner. Two Cal Poly scores were countered by three from the Irish, including a pair of aces by Silva. Sophomore Kellie Sciacca and Nicholas teamed for a give-and-go to give Notre Dame a 15-14 lead but a tip by sophomore Megan Fesl sailed long to keep the Mustangs in the game. Dealy’s tip in front of the net and Phillips return on a Mustgang overpass tied the contest (17-17). On the ensuing play, Phillips teamed with Sciacca for a block and Sciacca slammed another overpass to give Notre Dame a 17-19 lead. Cal Poly scored the next two and Notre Dame regained its lead as Phillips angled a cutter to the short side. Sciacca aced the Mustang defense (21-19) and another block by Stremick and Phillips pushed the lead to three scores. Wildermuth gave Sciacca a quick set to work with and the middle blocker came through. Soon after the team’s fifth block of the period, again courtesy of Stremick and Phillips, allowed Fesl to convert Sciacca’s assist to close the door and end the period.
Coming off a .290 set-three hitting clip, Notre Dame claimed the first three points of the fourth stanza. Silva dropped her third ace of the match off the kitchen table to stake a 5-2 lead for the Irish. Cal Poly rallied to make it a 6-6 set and eventually took a 12-9 lead. Down by two scores, Dealy eased a tip over a triple block and a Mustang hitting error forced an 18-18 stalemate. But the next three rallies resulted in Mustang points as they would eventually close the match a few plays later.
In day two of the Diet Coke Classic, Notre Dame squares off with No. 4 California in a 5 p.m. (CT) match on Saturday (Sept. 13).