Dec. 7, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (12/7/02) – Sophomore Emily Loomis had eight of her 19 kills in the decisive fourth game and Debbie Brown picked up her 300th win at Notre Dame as the 16th-seeded Irish fought off a scrappy College of Charleston squad (30-23, 30-24, 28-30, 30-27) in Saturday’s first-round NCAA Tournament action at the Joyce Center Fieldhouse.
Notre Dame (24-7) advances to Sunday’s second-round matchup with Michigan State (4:00 p.m.), which posted a 3-0 win over George Mason earlier in the day.
College of Charleston (29-6) turned in a strong showing in its NCAA debut, with the Cougars holding midgame leads in every game but the first. Senior hitter Tara Greene’s 21 kills kept the visitors in the match but the Irish ultimately won out thanks to a .291-.196 edge in hitting percentage and another strong blocking effort (17-9 advantage).
Notre Dame saw its hitting drop off from .341 in the first game to .212 and .188 in games 2-3 before needing strong hitting in game four (.425, with 20 kills and just three errors) to close out the win. Loomis played a lead role in the final push, with eight kills and just two errors on 15 swings in the fourth game.
The visitors used the momentum of their game-three win to claim an 8-5 edge in game four – but the Irish scored eight of the next 11 points to surge ahead, 13-11. Notre Dame looked to be on its way to the victory at 20-15 but the Cougars closed to 23-22, when Greene blocked Loomis’ rightside attack. Greene then had a chance to tie the game on an Irish overset but she pushed her try wide left for a 24-22 score.
Notre Dame closed out the win behind kills from junior hitter Jessica Kinder, freshman middle Lauren Kelbley and junior setter Kristen Kinder, who picked a perfect time for a dump attack that produced match point (29-25).
In addition to the 19 kills from Loomis (on .304 hitting), three other Irish hitters turned in strong matches with just two errors each. Kelbley (.355) and junior opposite Katie Neff (.379) both had 13 kills while Jessica Kinder had 10 kills (.286), four timely aces on her tough jump-serve and 21 digs (one shy of her career-high) Freshman libero Meg Henican chipped in a season-high 23 digs to lead all players.
Notre Dame improved on its NCAA-leading 3.7 blocks per game, with the 17-block effort including eight from freshman middle Lauren Brewster (two solo), six from Kelbley (one solo) and four block assists by Neff.
Three other Cougars chipped in double-digit kills, as junior middles Shawn Beckham (.267) and Alisa Long (.152) both posted 11 kills while junior hitter Stephanie Ballard (.114) added 10. Greene and Ballard both totaled 14 digs, with Beckham registering a team-high six blocks.
College of Charleston clawed its way back into the match in game three, rallying for the 30-28 win after seeing a 15-10 lead turn into a 19-18 edge for the Irish. The game remained tight before the visitors scored three straight points for a 28-25 lead, thanks to a crosscourt kill from freshman Rebecca Wieters, setter Mary Sabatino’s point after a long rally and a sharp-angled crosscourt strike from Greene (after another back-and-forth rally).
Notre Dame also faced a deficit midway through the second game (8-12) before forcing a 13-13 tie. The game stayed close until the Irish reeled off four straight to claim a 24-20 lead, with the rally including Kelbley’s quick hit on a service return, a stuff block from Loomis and Kelbley’s only ace of the game.
Loomis registered seven kills and no errors in the opening game (.467), as the Irish raced out to leads of 7-2, 15-8 and 21-11.
NOTRE DAME COACH DEBBIE BROWN: “I was very impressed with the College of Charleston. They played very good defense against us. There are a lot of little things that we need to better and we need to play better if we want to come away with a victory tomorrow. … We can’t depend on our blocking to get us out of big holes, so I think it’s important for us not to get behind by a lot of points. … Michigan State is a very well-coached team. They are very versatile, are strong at the net and are very good at hitting. I think it’s going to be a great match for everyone involved.”
COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON HEAD COACH JEWEL McROBERTS: “We have six seniors and great leadership. We got off to a slow start but I don’t think (lack of NCAA experience) hampered us at all. … We knew we had an opportunity to come in here and compete well and even have a chance to win. We are definitely proud of our performance…. (Size) ended up being a lot less of a factor than we expected. I think we held our own and were able to get a lot of touches on blocks ourselves.”