Nov. 16, 2004
Junior middle blocker Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) was named the BIG EAST Conference Player of the Week on Monday after helping the Notre Dame volleyball team to a pair of 3-0 victories last weekend en route to clinching its ninth regular-season championship in 10 years of league play. It was the sixth time the Brentwood, Tenn., native has been tabbed for the honor during her career, which is more than any other player in program history. Brewster averaged 4.17 kills on .469 hitting to go with 3.17 digs and 2.17 blocks over the two matches.
Though better known as perhaps the top all-around defensive player in the BIG EAST – she is the only player in the league at any position averaging over 1.00 blocks (conference-leading 1.47) and 1.00 digs (2.18, by far the best among middle blockers) – Brewster turned in a near-perfect offensive week against the top two defenses in the conference (other than Notre Dame’s). She made just two errors in 49 attack attempts, converting 25 of them into kills en route to hitting over .400 in both matches. She also was an integral component in Notre Dame’s defense holding foes to a .119 hitting mark.
On Friday, Brewster was a key player in Notre Dame sweeping fellow league co-leader and rival Pittsburgh 30-25, 30-22, 30-19, barely missing a triple-double. She helped the Irish defense limit the Panthers – who came in as the top hitting team in the BIG EAST – to just a .127 attack percentage, taking part in eight of the team’s 13 blocks (two solo) and adding 12 digs. Brewster also had 12 kills and no errors on 22 swings for a .545 hitting mark.
Brewster followed that up with another strong performance on Sunday, when she had 13 kills on .407 hitting to go with seven digs and five blocks in Notre Dame’s win against West Virginia.
The weekend put a punctuation mark on her campaign to be the BIG EAST Player of the Year, which will be announced on Friday. She figures to be a top contender, as the three-time honoree is one of just two competitors to have been named the league’s player of the week multiple times. The other, preseason player of the year Megan Miller of Pittsburgh, has seen her candidacy hurt over the last few weeks, as she has been sidelined with an injury that caused her to miss 40 percent of the conference slate and vanish from the league leaders for BIG EAST play (due to not achieving the minimum number of games played). Brewster is one of only three student-athletes to appear in the league leaders in three different categories in both overall and conference-only action, joining teammate Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) and Ashleigh Young of Rutgers, which finished tied for sixth in the standings with a 4-6 record.
Although Brewster’s offensive numbers are impressive – she is averaging 3.54 kills on .315 hitting – it is her defensive prowess that sets her apart from other players at her position. Last year’s NCAA blocking champion, she is by far the top all-around defensive middle in the BIG EAST, with a combined block and dig average of 3.65 (1.47 blocks + 2.18 digs). Georgetown’s Sara Albert is next at 2.29 (1.42 blocks, 0.87 digs), and West Virginia’s Alison Zemanski ranks third at 2.19 (1.46 blocks, 0.73 digs). Miller, the top offensive middle in the league, has a combined block-dig average of 1.70 per game (0.93 blocks, 0.77 digs). In fact, Brewster is one of only three middle hitters/blockers in Division I to be averaging 1.00+ blocks and 2.00+ digs per game, joining Texas A&M’s Melissa Munsch and Salaia Salave’a of Nevada.
Brewster, named first-team all-BIG EAST and AVCA honorable mention All-America in 2003, concluded conference play with an average of 1.66 blocks per game, marking the third straight season she has led the league in that category. The crown was her sixth career BIG EAST statistical title, to go with blocking in overall and league play in both 2002 and ’03 and hitting percentage in conference action last season. No other Irish player has ever won more than four. The former standout for Brentwood High School also ranked second in the conference in attack percentage (.326) and sixth in points (4.75). In addition, she was a major ingredient in Notre Dame finishing first in team blocking (3.61) for the fifth time in six years and first in opponent hitting percentage (.134) for the sixth time in as many years since that stat debuted in the conference leaders.
In overall action, she leads the BIG EAST in blocking with an average of 1.47, while coming in fourth in points (4.69) and sixth in hitting (.315). Brewster also leads Notre Dame in kills this season (301/3.54) and is third in service aces (0.28) and fourth in digs. She has been tops on the Irish in blocks in 18 matches this season, and she has led the team in kills and points 11 times each, as well as nine times in hitting percentage, and on eight occasions in aces. Brewster has seven double-doubles this season, and she has had 10 or more kills in 20 of 23 matches, including a stretch earlier this year of 15 in a row that ranks as the fourth-longest in program history.
Brewster, formerly a “Fab 40” standout for the Impact Volleyball Club, has already made a mark on the Irish career record book. She ranks second all-time in both hitting percentage (.317) and block average (1.66), while she is already fifth in total blocks, with more than a season remaining. Brewster, who has played in all 85 matches over the last three seasons, also ranks ninth in kill average (3.09), and she is 96 from reaching 1,000 for her career.
She also was named the BIG EAST’s top player on Sept. 13 and Oct. 25, in addition to three times during October of 2003. Brewster also was the league’s rookie of the week once in 2002.
Syracuse freshman middle blocker Jen Malcolm was tabbed rookie of the week by the conference on Monday.
Brewster and Notre Dame (16-7, 9-1), who have won 11 of their last 13 matches, will return to action tonight with a non-conference showdown with perennial-power Northern Iowa (21-8) at 7 p.m. (EST) in the Joyce Center. It will be the final home match for Irish seniors Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.), Kelly Corbett (Mountain View, Calif./St. Francis H.S.), and Leah Nedderman (Grapevine, Texas/Colleyville Heritage H.S.). The Irish will then head to Pittsburgh this weekend for the BIG EAST Championship. Top-seeded Notre Dame will take on Boston College, the only league team to have topped the Irish in 2004, on Saturday in the semifinals at 1 p.m. (EST). The other semi, to be played afterwards, will have the tournament host and Syracuse, with the winners meeting in the title match on Sunday at 2 p.m.