Sept. 9, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Hot hitting early and an outstanding defensive performance combined to help the 15th-ranked Notre Dame volleyball team (5-1) register a 3-0 victory (30-21, 30-17, 32-30) in its home opener, over Valparaiso Tuesday night in the Joyce Center, sending the Crusaders to their first loss in nine matches this season. Senior OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) set a school record with 28 digs, the most ever by an Irish player in a three-game match, while junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis’ (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) 24 kills were just one shy of the Notre Dame record for a three-game contest.
Kinder’s performance, which featured 10 digs in the first game, three in the second, and 15 in the final frame, bettered the previous record by three. Tracey Shelton scrambled for 25 digs in a three-game win over Butler on Oct. 25, 1989. Other than Shelton and Kinder, no other Irish players have ever had more than 21 digs in a straight-game match. Kinder’s previous career high was 22 vs. Pepperdine last September in a five-game affair.
Loomis continued her remarkable hitting, slamming 24 kills on 42 attempts without making an attack error. Her .571 attack percentage was the highest mark turned in by a Notre Dame player this season. In the final game, Loomis had 12 kills on 16 attempts — a .750 attack percentage.
Though Kinder showed the way defensively, the whole Irish team got in on the act. All 12 players who saw action registered at least one dig, tallying 81 as a team for an average of 27 per game. Notre Dame came into the match averaging just 11.8 digs per game, the worst mark in the BIG EAST Conference. The 81 digs marked the most by the Irish since they had 108 in five games against Illinois State on Nov. 14, 2001. Notre Dame’s relentless resistance to allowing Crusader attacks to find the Sport Court surface in the Joyce Center was a big part in Valpo hitting just .135.
Sophomore OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) also was in double digits with a season-high 14 digs, while junior DS/MB Kelly Corbett (Mountain View, Calif./St. Francis H.S.) threw in a career-high six. Senior OPP/OH Kim Fletcher (St. Louis, Mo./Nerinx Hall H.S.) had a season-high seven digs, while classmate S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) matched her season’s best with eight.
Notre Dame’s offensive accuracy also was exceptional. Over the first two games, the Irish outscored Valparaiso by 22 points, due in large part to a .368 hitting percentage. In those frames, Notre Dame made a total of just three attack errors (with two coming on Valparaiso blocks), including none in the second game. In that middle game, the Irish hit .474, notching 18 kills on 38 attempts.
Sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) joined Loomis in continuing to hit well this season. She had 11 kills on 21 attempts and, like Loomis, did not commit an error. Her attack percentage was .524. Sophomore MB Carolyn Cooper (Houston, Texas/Lutheran South Academy) delivered a career-high six kills, while making just one error.
The Irish took command of the match early, winning the first four points and jumping out to a 9-2 advantage. Valparaiso could not cut the margin to less than four before Notre Dame finished off the opening game.
In game number two, the Crusaders were staying with the Irish, trailing 16-13, before Notre Dame’s hot hitting became too much. The Irish finished the game by winning 14 of the final 18 points.
The final game was the closest of the match, with Valparaiso having a pair of game points. Trailing 30-29, Notre Dame got consecutive kills from Loomis, Fletcher, and Loomis again to finish the match.
With the win, Notre Dame has won 18 in a row against Valparaiso, including 31 consecutive games, dating back to 1987. The Irish also have won 14 consecutive home openers.
Notre Dame will return to action this weekend, playing host to the Shamrock Invitational, which features four NCAA Championship participants from a year ago. Play gets underway on Friday, with South Carolina and Utah playing at 4:30 p.m. before the Irish take on Indiana at 7 p.m.