Aug. 5, 2004
For the 10th time in as many years since joining the league, conference head coaches have tabbed the University of Notre Dame volleyball team the favorite to win the BIG EAST title in 2004. In addition, senior OH/MB/OPP Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) and juniors MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) and MB/OH Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) – who were all honorable mention All-America selections by the American Volleyball Coaches Association a year ago – were named to the seven-member preseason all-BIG EAST team, marking the first time any school has placed three on that squad since it debuted in 1998. Notre Dame, which has won eight regular-season (including five in a row) championships and seven BIG EAST tournament titles, received nine of the 10 first-place votes it was eligible for (coaches cannot vote for their own team or players) and was listed second on the remaining ballot to accrue 99 points. Pittsburgh, which beat the Irish in the final of the BIG EAST Championship in 2003 after the teams shared the regular-season crown, garnered the other two first-place votes and finished second with 90 points. The teams will meet on Friday, Nov. 12 at 4 p.m. in the Joyce Center in a contest played just hours before the pep rally for the matchup between the schools in football the following day. Connecticut, which returns five starters from last year’s squad that finished seventh in the BIG EAST and missed the league tournament, came in third with 78 points, while St. John’s, which tied for fourth in ’03, had 70 points to take fourth place. The Huskies and Red Storm both will visit the Joyce Center in 2004, on Nov. 5 (7 p.m.) and Oct. 24 (2 p.m.), respectively. Loomis, who made the preseason all-BIG EAST team for the second straight year, has been an AVCA all-Northeast Region selection in each of the last two years and gained second-team all-conference accolades in 2003 after being on the first team as a sophomore. Tabbed the BIG EAST Championship’s Most Outstanding Player in 2002, she is one of 14 players in Notre Dame history to register 1,000 career kills (1,008 heading into her final campaign). Loomis, who led the Irish in kills in each of the last two seasons, set school records in ’03 for consecutive matches with 10+ kills (21) and most kills in a match without an attack error (24 vs. Valparaiso). Her 3.24 career kill average ranks fifth in the Irish record book. Loomis, who is the only athlete in Notre Dame history to earn all-BIG EAST honors in two distinctly different sports (gaining four all-league accolades in the high jump, including for winning the ’03 outdoor conference title, for the Irish track and field team), played mostly opposite in ’03 until shifting to middle blocker at the end of the campaign. Brewster, who finished first in NCAA Division I in blocking in 2003 with an average of 1.78 (just shy of the school record of 1.79) and was a key to the Irish leading the nation in team blocking (3.72 average), was a first-team all-BIG EAST selection in 2003 after gaining honorable mention accolades as a rookie. She also was named to the AVCA all-Northeast Region squad last year. Brewster already has won five BIG EAST Conference statistical crowns (more than any other Irish player in school history), leading the league in blocking in both individual and league matches in both of the last two seasons, while also finishing first in hitting percentage in conference action in ’03 with a .403 hitting mark. Her career block average of 1.72 is the best in Irish history, while her .324 career hitting percentage is third-best in school history. Brewster set the Notre Dame record for block assists in a season in ’02 (161), while also establishing freshman marks for both total blocks (175) and block average (1.68, which was fourth in the NCAA). In her first two seasons, she was outstanding in the BIG EAST Championship, averaging 3.20 kills, 2.13 blocks, and 4.50 points on .384 hitting in four contests. Kelbley, named to the preseason all-BIG EAST team for the second year in a row, is one of only three juniors in Division I to have earned all-region honors in each of her first two collegiate campaigns. She was a first-team all-conference selection in 2003 after being named to the second team in ’02, when she also was tabbed Rookie of the Year in both the league and the AVCA’s Northeast Region. Kelbley’s career hitting percentage of .325 is the second-best mark in school history, while her 1.17 block average ranks fifth all-time. In 2003, she was second on the team in blocking (1.24) and hitting percentage (.303) and third in kills (3.29), points (4.25), and service aces (0.23). She was third in the BIG EAST in blocking in both overall and conference play (1.34), while also coming in fourth in hitting percentage in league action (.340). Notre Dame has placed multiple players on the preseason all-BIG EAST teams in each of its seven years of existence. Joining the Irish trio on this year’s team were preseason player of the year Megan Miller of Pittsburgh, Jackie Ahlers of St. John’s (the lone unanimous selection), Connecticut’s Jamie Hadenfeldt, and Sara Albert of Georgetown. Seven student-athletes were named to the squad due to a tie in voting. Notre Dame will begin BIG EAST Conference play at Syracuse (picked to finish ninth) on Oct. 2 before beginning home action against St. John’s. In an interesting twist, the Irish faithful will witness the best the league has to offer, as four of the five home conference matches are against schools predicted to finish among the top six in the league. The top four teams in the regular-season standings will head to Pittsburgh for the BIG EAST Championship, scheduled for Nov. 20-21. This year’s Notre Dame squad, which opens the 2004 campaign on Wednesday, Sept. 1 against Loyola University Chicago at 7 p.m. in the Joyce Center, returns nine monogram winners, including four of seven starters, from last year’s team that was 23-7, won a share of the BIG EAST title, and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Championship. The Irish, who won 14 straight matches for the second-longest winning streak in school history, finished 24th in the AVCA rankings after peaking at 12th. Season tickets and individual match tickets for all 11 Irish home matches are available via the Notre Dame ticket office at (574) 631-7356. Once again, Notre Dame’s official athletic website will be the ideal place to follow Irish volleyball when fans are unable to be at the Joyce Center. Live stats for all home contests, as well as live audio broadcasts of six matches in the Joyce Center will be available at www.und.com.
2004 BIG EAST Conference Volleyball Preseason Poll 2003 Records 2003 BIG EAST 2004 ND School Points BE Overall Finish vs. 1. NOTRE DAME (9) 99 11-1 23-7 T-1st/runner-up -- 2. Pittsburgh (2) 90 11-1 26-6 T-1st/champion H - Nov. 12 3. Connecticut 78 6-6 20-12 7th H - Nov. 5 4. St. John's 70 7-5 26-9 T-4th H - Oct. 24 5. Villanova 57 7-5 14-15 T-4th/semifinals A - Oct. 31 6. Boston College 50 3-9 17-12 T-10th H - Nov. 7 7. Georgetown 42 3-9 9-19 T-10th A - Oct. 30 8. Rutgers 40 5-7 11-17 8th A - Oct. 9 9. Syracuse 38 4-8 17-16 9th A - Oct. 2 10. Seton Hall 20 3-9 20-13 T-10th A - Oct. 10 11. West Virginia 17 3-10 6-21 13th H - Nov. 14
Notes: First-place votes in parentheses. Last year’s BIG EAST finishes are regular-season place followed by tournament result. 2004 BIG EAST Conference Preseason Awards Player of the Year Megan Miller, Pittsburgh, Sr., MH All-BIG EAST Team Jamie Hadenfeldt, Connecticut, Sr., OH (2003 Second Team) Sara Albert, Georgetown, Sr., MB (2003 Honorable Mention, 2002 Honorable Mention, 2001 Rookie of the Year, 2001 Second Team) Lauren Brewster, Notre Dame, Jr., MB (2003 First Team, 2002 Honorable Mention) Lauren Kelbley, Notre Dame, Jr., MB/OH (2003 First Team, 2002 Rookie of the Year, 2002 Second Team) Emily Loomis, Notre Dame, Sr., OH/MB/OPP (2003 Second Team, 2002 First Team) Megan Miller, Pittsburgh, Sr., MH (2003 First Team, 2002 Second Team) *Jackie Ahlers, St. John’s, Jr., MH (2003 First Team, 2002 Honorable Mention) Notes: Past BIG EAST postseason honors in parentheses. Due to a tie in the voting, seven players were selected to the team. * – indicates unanimous selection