Aug. 27, 2003
MALIBU, Calif. – The University of Notre Dame volleyball team (0-0) will open its 2003 season this weekend in the Four Points Sheraton Classic in Malibu, Calif. The Irish will play a trio of teams who finished 2002 among the national top 25, including a pair — #5 Pepperdine and #10 Arizona — that are listed in the top 10 of the preseason national rankings. Notre Dame was 24-8 (11-2 BIG EAST) in ’02, winning both the regular-season and tournament BIG EAST crowns and qualifying for the NCAA Championship for the 11th consecutive season, earning the No. 16 seed and playing host to first- and second-round action.
The Irish will open their ’03 slate on Friday against the Wildcats at 5 p.m. (PDT) before taking on both the Waves (10 a.m.) and Eastern Washington (5 p.m.) on Saturday. This marks Notre Dame’s first-ever trip to Malibu, on the heels of Pepperdine’s participation in the ’02 Golden Dome Invitational, in which the Irish took a five-game contest against the Waves to claim the tournament title.
IRISH vs. WILDCATS: Arizona will open its season against Notre Dame on Friday evening, hoping to improve on a 2002 campaign which saw the ‘Cats finish 20-12 (11-7 Pac-10) and finish 10th in the final national rankings after falling in the NCAA regional finals to Stanford. The Wildcats are ranked 10th in the ’03 preseason listing, having seven letterwinners, including four starters, returning from last year’s team. Arizona is led by a pair of sophomores who had outstanding rookie campaigns. OH Kim Glass was the AVCA National Freshman of the Year in ’02, while also earning second-team All-America honors, while MB Bre Ladd also was named to the All-Pac-10 Freshman Team. Glass led all freshmen in kills per game with 4.96. Overall, the Wildcats are a very youthful team, with just one senior (New Mexico transfer Kelly Halfaker) and three juniors. Arizona was picked to finish in a tie for third, with UCLA, in the preseason Pac-10 poll, with defending NCAA champion USC and ’02 national runner-up Stanford picked in the top two slots.
Head coach David Rubio is in his 12th season leading the Wildcat program, having posted a 217-109 (.666) record, while guiding Arizona to nine NCAA tournament berths, including six appearances in the regionals, three in the regional finals, and a 2001 national-semifinal appearance.
The Irish and Wildcats will be meeting for the first time since 1993 and third time overall. Notre Dame won the initial meeting in straight games in the ’88 Saluki Invitational in Carbondale, Ill. Arizona took the ’93 encounter in three games in Tucson.
IRISH vs. WAVES: Pepperdine will take on Eastern Washington Friday night in its season opener before facing the Irish on Saturday morning. The Waves were 26-7 (14-0 West Coast) in 2002, finishing the season ranked sixth after losing in the regional finals of the NCAA tournament to eventual national champion USC. The defending West Coast Conference champions, ranked an all-time high of fifth in the preseason AVCA poll, return 10 letterwinners, including five starters from that squad. Leading the way are a pair of seniors: second-team All-American and WCC Player of the Year OH Katie Wilkins and MB Lyndsey Hache’, an all-Pacific Region and all-conference selection in ’02. Hache’ ranked 11th in the NCAA a year ago with a .393 hitting percentage. WCC Freshman of the Year OH Breegan Mulligan also returns to the fold, while all-conference honorees S Paola Rodriguez and MB Stacy Rouwenhorst have graduated. The Waves were one of the most potent offensive teams in ’02, ranking third in the nation in kills per game (17.42), fifth in hitting percentage (.293), and fourth in assists per game (15.71).
Head coach Nina Matthies has compiled a 384-233 (.622) in 20 years at the head of the Pepperdine program. The Waves have earned 13 berths to the NCAA Championship, including the school’s first-ever appearance in the regional final in ’02. Pepperdine has finished in the national top 20 in each of the last six seasons and in the top 10 in each of the last two.
After meeting for the first time in 2001, the Irish and Waves will meet for the third consecutive season. 15th-ranked Pepperdine took that initial meeting, part of the US Bank/Arby’s Tournament in Lincoln, Neb., in straight games (30-18, 30-27, 30-23). Wilkins led the way for the Waves with 16 kills on .382 hitting, while Brie Harris had 14 kills and 12 digs and Hache’ delivered a dozen kills on .393 hitting. The Irish hit just .129, but Malinda Goralski had eight kills on .467 hitting and Janie Alderete registered 19 digs.
A year ago, Notre Dame outlasted #10 Pepperdine in five games (30-32, 30-24, 29-31, 30-25, 15-10) in the championship match of the Golden Dome Invitational in the Joyce Center. Team hitting in the final game proved the difference as the Irish posted a sizzling .524 attack percentage, while Pepperdine hit just .150. Both teams had five players turn in 12 or more kills. The Irish were led by OPP/OH Emily Loomis’ (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) 22 and OPP Katie Neff’s (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) 21 (on .409 hitting), while OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) had a double-double with 22 digs and 13 kills and Alderete also scrambled for 20 digs. MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) was in on 10 blocks, in addition to slamming 14 kills on .393 hitting. The Waves were paced offensively by Harris, who had 21 kills, and Rouwenhorst, who had 15 on .407 hitting. On defense, Rodriguez had 20 digs (to go along with 63 assists) and Mulligan matched her tally, in addition to gaining a dozen kills. The win was the first for the Irish over a top-10 squad since 1995 and also set the Notre Dame record for longest match under rally-scoring rules (2:28) and matched the school record for points in a match (134).
IRISH vs. EAGLES: Eastern Washington will open the season by taking on a pair of top-10 teams before taking on Notre Dame. The Eagles play fifth-ranked Pepperdine Friday evening before challenging #10 Arizona on Saturday afternoon and the Irish on that evening. Eastern Washington was 29-2 (13-1 Big Sky) in 2002, finishing the season ranked 24th in the AVCA rankings despite being denied an at-large berth to the NCAA Championship after losing in the final of the Big Sky tournament to Sacramento State. The Eagles earned their first-ever national ranking in ’02, peaking at 15th. Eastern Washington, who ranked 11th in the nation a year ago with 16.79 kills per game, has 10 letterwinners, including three starters, back this season. Senior S Jessie Wright was a first-team all-conference selection in ’02, while senior S Courtney Bush and junior OHs Megan Kitterman and Keva Sonderan earned honorable mention all-Big Sky accolades. Gone, though, is the 2002 Big Sky MVP OH Janelle Ruen, as well as all-league first-teamer MB Monica Lynch.
Head coach Wade Benson has posted a 69-19 (.784) record in three years leading the Eagles’ program and has a 112-26 (.812) overall mark.
Saturday’s evening match will mark the first-ever regular-season meeting between Notre Dame and Eastern Washington. The only previous contest between the squads was a 3-1 (15-2, 13-15, 15-11, 15-11) Irish victory in the first round of the 1998 NCAA Championship, in Palo Alto, Calif. Kristy Kreher led the Irish with 24 kills on .541 hitting, while Lindsay Treadwell registered a triple-double, with 11 kills, 16 digs, and 10 blocks. The Eagles, which hit .120 for the match, were led by Kim Exner, who had 15 kills and 14 digs.
HEAD COACH Debbie Brown: Irish head coach Debbie Brown is in her 13th season at the helm of the Notre Dame program. She has led the Irish to a 300-102 (.746) mark, while holding a 417-185 (.693) overall record. Brown’s Notre Dame teams have earned 11 consecutive NCAA tournament berths, advancing to the regional finals in 1993 and the regionals in ’94, ’95, and ’97. An eight-time conference coach of the year (4 MCC, 3 BIG EAST, 1 Pac-10), she has coached four Irish players to All-America honors, while 20 have gained all-BIG EAST mention since 1995. The Irish also have claimed 11 regular-season conference titles (4 Midwestern Collegiate, 7 BIG EAST) and 11 league tournament crowns (4 MCC, 7 BIG EAST). The captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic volleyball team after winning a pair of national championships and earning All-America honors twice playing at USC, Brown graduated from Arizona State in 1982 and coached her alma mater from 1983-88, helping the Sun Devils to five NCAA tournaments.
START ME UP: Notre Dame has had a great deal of success in season openers over the years. The Irish are 12-0 in season openers in the Debbie Brown era and 18-5 overall. Further, Notre Dame has opened 2-0 in each of the last nine seasons, including 3-0 in each of the last three. Last season, the Irish beat Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and Cal Poly to claim the Shamrock Invitational title in the season-opening tournament. This year marks just the third time under Brown that Notre Dame starts the season away from the Joyce Center. The other times were matches at Valparaiso in 1993 and ’98. The last time Notre Dame played its first match of the season outside the state of Indiana was in 1990, when the Irish lost three matches in the Washington State Invitational in Pullman, Wash.
CALIFORNIA GIRLS: Three Irish players will be returning to their home state this weekend. Senior twins OH Jessica and S Kristen Kinder hail from Fresno, where they played for Bullard H.S. and the Fresno Red Volleyball Club. Junior DS/MB Kelly Corbett, a native of Mountain View, played for St. Francis H.S. and City Beach Volleyball Club. In addition, assistant coach Louella Lovely played at California-Berkeley before graduating from Cal Poly SLO in 1997. She then served as an assistant for the Bears in 1998 and ’99.
PRESEASON BIG EAST FAVORITES: Once again Notre Dame is the favorite in the BIG EAST Conference. The Irish, who have captured seven regular-season and seven tournament crowns in their eight years in the league, garnered nine first-place votes and were chosen as the favorite in the preseason volleyball poll of conference head coaches. Miami gained four first-place votes and was picked second with 136 points. The teams will meet in the Joyce Center on November 9 in a match televised by College Sports Television (CSTV) in its Sunday Night Spike national match-of-the-week package.
Two Irish players, junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) and sophomore middle blocker Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.), were selected to the preseason all-BIG EAST team. Loomis was the Most Outstanding Player in the ’02 BIG EAST Championship, while Kelbley was the conference rookie of the year.
STREAKIN’: Notre Dame enters the 2003 season holding a number of impressive home winning streaks. In regular-season action in the Joyce Center, the Irish have won 33 matches in a row, dating back to a 3-0 loss to #7 Colorado State on Sept. 23, 2000. Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995, Notre Dame has never lost at home to a league opponent, posting a 49-0 record.
IRISH TO FACE DIFFICULT SLATE: Nine teams earning berths to last year’s NCAA Championship — including five earning top-12 seeds — highlight the 15-match non-conference schedule for Notre Dame this fall. In all, 10 NCAA squads from a year ago will take on the Irish this season. In addition to three qualifiers completing the field of the Sept. 12-14 Shamrock Invitational (Utah, South Carolina, and Indiana), Miami, which reached the final 16 in ’02, will play in the Joyce Center on Nov. 9. Notre Dame will hit the road to face national runner-up Stanford (Nov. 29), quarterfinalists Arizona (Aug. 29 in Malibu, Calif.) and Pepperdine (Aug. 30), round of 16 participants Northern Iowa (Nov. 11) and North Carolina (Oct. 21), as well as Texas (Sept. 6), which lost in the second round.
AMAZING ACADEMICS: For the second year in a row, Notre Dame earned an American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Team Academic Award. The Irish, which had a team grade-point average of 3.348 during the 2002-03 year, were one of just four Division I teams to earn the Team Academic Award and also win at least one match in the ’02 NCAA Championship. The award honors teams that display excellence in the classroom by maintaining at least a 3.30 cumulative team GPA. Other than the Irish, only Kansas State, Nebraska, and Northern Iowa gained the Team Academic Award and advanced at least to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Leading the way academically for the Irish were a trio of veterans. Senior Kim Fletcher earned a 4.000 GPA in both semesters of the most recent academic year, while classmate Kristen Kinder duplicated the feat in the fall and ’03 graduate Keara Coughlin posted a perfect GPA in her final semester. As a team, the Irish had a 3.438 GPA in the spring, the second-highest among Notre Dame’s 26 varsity squads.
ND-MIAMI MATCH TO BE ON NATIONAL TV: When the two top teams in the BIG EAST Conference meet on Nov. 9 in the Joyce Center, a national television audience will watch. The showdown between Notre Dame and Miami will be part of Sunday Night Spike, a presentation of College Sports Television (CSTV) and the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA), which will feature 11 matches of the week to be broadcast on Sunday evenings throughout the season. The Irish topped the Hurricanes in the final of the BIG EAST Championship a year ago, and the teams are picked to be at the top of the league again in 2003.
AKERS ON RUNNER’S WORLD COVER: Former Notre Dame volleyball standout and current Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) tour player Angie Akers was featured on the cover of the August edition of Runner’s World magazine. Akers, who graduated in 1998 as Angie Harris before marrying former Irish football player Jeremy Akers, had been a serious distance runner prior to joining the AVP last year.
The Fort Wayne, Ind. native and 1994 graduate of Bishop Luers High School was named the AVP Rookie of the Year in 2002 and is currently ranked as the No. 9 team on the tour, along with partner Sarah Straton. After leaving Notre Dame, Akers was an avid runner for three years, finishing the Boston Marathon with a time of 3 hours and 23 minutes. She then moved to Long Beach, Calif. to pursue a career in beach volleyball.
KEEPING UP WITH ND VOLLEYBALL: For the fastest results of Notre Dame volleyball matches, call the Notre Dame sports hotline at (574) 631-3000 and choose #5 and #1. The hotline provides schedules and result information for varsity sports and serves as a supplement to the match recaps and weekly releases provided on the official athletic website at www.und.com. The hotline is the first medium updated with results of each Notre Dame volleyball match.
Once again, www.und.com will be the best place for in-depth coverage of Irish volleyball. Live scoring of all home matches, as well as live internet broadcasts of eight contests supplement the regular match previews and recaps. All three Shamrock Invitational matches (Sept. 12-14), as well as both BIG EAST Championship contests (Nov. 22-23) and the tilts with Georgetown (Sept. 28), Virginia Tech (Nov. 7), and Miami (Nov. 9) will feature live broadcasts, with former Bethel College volleyball coach Lorne Oake.
In addition, media members and fans may be added to the sports information e-mail release list by contacting sports information assistant Bo Rottenborn at Rottenborn.firstname.lastname@example.org. All requests for story ideas, interview access, match credentials, and further information on Irish volleyball should similarly be directed to Rottenborn. Credential and interview requests should be made at least 24 hours in advance.