Junior setter Jamel Nicholas had a career-high 68 assists versus Syracuse on Saturday.

Irish Smash Orange In Five Sets

Nov. 1, 2008

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Needing five sets to secure a win over Syracuse for the first time since 1990, the Notre Dame volleyball team prevailed over the Orange with a 3-2 (25-12, 26-28, 25-20, 22-25, 15-7) victory Saturday morning at the Joyce Center. The Irish (12-11 overall, 7-3 BIG EAST) more than doubled Syracuse’s point total in the first and fifth sets yet struggled to find a groove throughout the match’s middle stages. Nonetheless, the home team posted a .377 hitting percentage to set a school record for a five-set match. The previous Notre Dame record for hitting percentage in a five-set match was .346, set versus San Francisco in 1991.

It was the first five-set win of the season in four tries and just the second five-period contest between Notre Dame and Syracuse in the 17-match series history.

Five Irish players finished with at least 10 kills for the first time since a 2007 date at Pittsburgh (Sept. 22). Junior Christina Kaelin had 17 kills (.343) and classmate Serinity Phillips had 16 kills (.375) and 13 digs. Sophomore Kellie Sciacca had 19 kills (.577) to go along with four blocks with senior Justine Stremick and freshman Kristen Dealy each chipping in 11 kills. Dealy also had 18 digs with sophomore Megan Dunne scooping 21 shots. Traffic was directed by junior setter Jamel Nicholas and her career-high 68 assists.

Syracuse (14-12 overall, 5-4 BIG EAST) was led by Sarah Morton’s 25 kills on 41 swings for a .561 average. Noemie Lefebvre had 11 kills as the Orange hit .252 for the match.

Kaelin started the match with a kill then the Irish got aces from Sciacca and sophomore Angela Puente to take a 4-2 lead and the rout was on. Dealy tossed an ace at 11-5 then went up the middle with back-to-back kills to double the count, 18-9.

Notre Dame laced four aces in the first set and finished with a sizzling .800 hitting percentage. The Irish posted 17 kills on 20 attempts with one error, giving them the highest single-set average since hitting .812 in the second set of a three-period affair at DePaul on Oct. 15, 2005. Sciacca and Dealy each had five kills in the frame.

The Irish also hit .800 in the first set of a battle at Rhode Island on Nov. 18, 1986.

The second set saw 23 tied scores and 14 lead changes. Morton and Lefebvre each had six kills but Phillips countered with six of her own. Phillips’ first kill came from the right side (5-5) then she teamed with Sciacca for a block in the exact spot one play later. She registered her third straight point from the right side off Nicholas’ back set. Dealy crushed a kill at 18-18 that left an Orange defender in a daze and gave Notre Dame a sniff at the set after she chased down an errant Irish pass and turned it into a kill. But Syracuse regained its composure and took away Notre Dame’s set point at 26-25 and eventually won the frame.

Notre Dame steamrolled the Orange coming out of intermission. Phillips cocked a strong swing from the left side (5-4) to help the Irish jump out to a 13-8 lead. Kaelin’s roundhouse made it 17-11 and Dealy came through with a kill to force a Syracuse timeout. Nicholas hit the 40-assist mark midway through the period and set Stremick for a score to close the books.

Nicholas continued to feed Kaelin the rock in the fourth set as the outside hitter had eight kills on 13 swings. However, April Quigley did the same for Morton who finished with nine kills in the set. The two teams tied the set 13 times, the last of which came at 22-22. Morton scored four of Syracuse’s final five points in the win.

Sciacca went off with four kills in the fifth set, most of which came during a 7-0 run that broke open a 6-6 contest. Dealy finished things off with Notre Dame’s seventh ace of the match.

Notre Dame remains at home for a 2 p.m. (ET) contest versus Marquette on Sunday, Nov. 2. Live audio, video and stats will be available at UND.com. For up-to-the-minute results, sign up for IRISH ALERT text messaging services at UND.com.