Aug. 29, 2003
MALIBU, Calif. – The Notre Dame volleyball team (1-0) came out of the gates roaring with a convincing four-game (30-18, 28-30, 30-20, 30-26) upset of #10 Arizona Friday in the opening match of the Four Points Sheraton Classic in Firestone Fieldhouse. The win marked the first time the Irish knocked off a top-10 team since Sept. 14 of last season, when they upended 10th-ranked Pepperdine in five games in the Golden Dome Invitational.
The new two-setter formation used by Notre Dame for the first time on Friday showed no signs of being in its inaugural voyage, as senior S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) and sophomore S Kelly Burrell (Phoenix, Ariz./Xavier Preparatory School) orchestrated an attack that came out hitting with precision from the first point. In a lopsided 12-point victory in game one, Notre Dame posted a .414 attack percentage. Overall, the Irish attackers hit .324 for the match, compared to just .100 for the Wildcats. Kinder finished with 26 assists, while Burrell had 17 and neither committed a ballhandling error.
Notre Dame’s two preseason all-BIG EAST hitters were in their top form on Friday. Sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) slammed a team-high 16 kills, while registering just a pair of errors, for a .424 hitting percentage. Junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) posted a scorching .522 attack percentage, hitting 14 kills, while making just two errors.
The Arizona offense sputtered in the first game, registering 12 attack errors and just eight kills for a -.118 percentage. It failed to find a rhythm in the second game (hitting .088), but the Wildcats evened the match due largely to a decrease in production from Notre Dame’s attack. The Irish regained form in the final two games to secure the victory.
Defensively, Notre Dame was paced by senior OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) and sophomore OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Newman H.S.), who each had 10 digs. Kelbley led the team with six block assists, while Loomis was in on five. As a team, the Irish registered nine blocks.
Also playing well offensively was sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.), who had eight kills in 16 attempts. Senior OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) had nine kills, as well.
The Irish will have a busy day of action on Saturday, with a pair of further challenges awaiting them. At 10 a.m. (PDT), they will try for consecutive upsets against top-10 teams, taking on host #5 Pepperdine. Notre Dame will complete its opening weekend of play with a 5 p.m. (PDT) matchup with Eastern Washington. The Waves and Eagles played each other in Friday’s late match.
With the win, Notre Dame stayed perfect in season openers in the 13-year tenure of Brown. The Irish have opened 2-0 in each of the last nine seasons, including 3-0 in each of the last three. This year is the just the third time under Brown that Notre Dame opened the season on the road and the first time since 1990 the Irish started play outside the state of Indiana.
Notre Dame and Arizona were meeting for just the third time and the first since 1993. The teams split the previous contests.
The win was the first for Brown over the Wildcats while guiding the Irish program. Though, she posted a 7-6 mark against Arizona while guiding Arizona State from 1983-88, Brown’s Irish lost their only previous encounter with the ‘Cats. Arizona is the 111th different team to fall victim to Notre Dame during the Brown era.