Dec. 8, 2002
It wasn’t the ending that the University of Notre Dame volleyball team (24-8) had in mind. Looking to avenge a loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Championship a year ago, the Irish suffered their second-straight NCAA loss to the Spartans on Sunday afternoon in three games (30-28, 30-20, 30-23). Michigan State moves on to the Sweet 16 in Santa Barbara, Calif., and ends Notre Dame’s home court win streak at 36 matches.
Four Michigan State hitters ended up with double-digit kills, led by Jenny Rood’s 13 on .600 hitting. Angela Morley and Kyla Smith added 12 a piece and Kim Schram had 10. For Notre Dame, Katie Neff, Lauren Kelbley and Emily Loomis each chalked up 11 kills but struggled with their accuracy. The Irish could manage just a .169 team hitting mark, while the Spartans enjoyed a .314 percentage.
Game one was a tight contest until the Spartans surged ahead late. With the score tied 21-21, a service error and three attack errors from Notre Dame gave MSU a comfortable cushion. Behind 27-24, the Irish would rally back to cut the lead to one at 29-28, but Rood drilled a kill down the middle of the court to end game one and seize all the momentum for her team.
The second game was dominated by the Spartans, as they leapt out to a 20-9 lead while taking advantage of several Notre Dame attack errors. Michigan State eventually cruised to a 30-20 game victory.
Notre Dame would enjoy a brief lead in game one, jumping ahead to a 4-1 lead. Another rash of blocks from the Spartans (who out-blocked Notre Dame 15-8 in the match) got them right back in the game and tied the score at 5-5. The game remained close until Katie Neff stepped to serve line for Notre Dame trailing by a point (19-18). MSU’s Smith recorded two kills sandwiched between two Irish attack errors. After a timeout, Smith recorded another kills, the Spartan front line came through with a block and ND followed with an attack error and service error. The Michigan State advantage was suddenly an insurmountable 25-19.
Michigan State moves on to the NCAA Sweet 16 in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Thursday, Dec. 12.
Michigan State Head Coach Chuck Erbe…
On advancing to the round of 16… “I am very pleased and very proud of my team. Our team and staff have worked very hard in support of our program. These kids stayed all summer long, and that was one of their goals — to get past the second round [of the NCAA tournament]. Last year we had a very difficult draw, at Wisconsin, and this year we thought we had a good draw. It was a good draw for everybody involved, all four teams.”
On winning game one… “Game one was crucial to break any momentum that Notre Dame had and also to increase our own confidence and put doubt in their minds. If Notre Dame had won game one we would have worked harder in the following games. So much of this game comes down to the mental when both teams are equal physically and have equal talent. The team’s confidence and belief system determines whether or not you have success on the floor.”
On Notre Dame’s play in game three… “Notre Dame is such a young team and when you have a team that is inexperienced, the tournament is a lot of pressure. Our team is tournament tested, every single player has played in the NCAA tournament. This is a difficult situation, and when you are playing in a one [loss] and out situation, as we have the past four games, our team has built a toughness. We are battle tested. If you measure that against the youth of Notre Dame [it is an advantage]. Though they have great talent, they are still young and [have] the anxiety that comes along with that.”
Michigan State Junior S Nikki Colson
On the Spartans’ solid hitting… “Ever since the Big Ten [tournament], all my hitters have come back with a new love and passion for the game and a desire to get better every day. They have showed a renewed confidence in each other. What you saw today was just what we have worked so hard on.”
On Notre Dame’s play in game three… “We said in the locker room [after game two] that they were going to come out ready to fight in the third [game] and that we had to come out ready to play.”
Junior MB Jenny Rood On the play of the Michigan State defense … “The girls that come in and play defense for us had a mission out there not to let anything hit the ground on our side of the floor.”
Notre Dame Head Coach Debbie Brown
On the first game setting the tone for the match… “We lost the first game by two points. It was very competitive, back and forth. We had five service errors and three net errors when we had good digs behind them. That is eight points right there. Certainly that hurt. I think when you are a little bit nervous, serving is certainly a skill that will show up. We were a little bit tight, and winning game one is important. It does set the tone for the match and it put us behind and gave Michigan State the momentum they took into games two and three.”
On the team being inexperienced compared to Michigan State… “I think the programs are very similar. We just have a younger squad. We had three freshmen on the court quite a bit. They have played very well throughout the season, but I think it is a little different once you get into the NCAA tournament with the excitement and the anticipation. However, the BIG EAST tournament prepares us well for that. I don’t know that it was necessarily experience [that was the difference]. I would say they were just the better team today and they outplayed us in pretty much every area of the game. We just got outplayed today.”
On losing early in the NCAA tournament… “It’s always disappointing to lose. You never want the season to be over. I feel like we do have a lot of talent on our team, which makes it a very fun team to work with. We have had some highs and lows throughout the season, but the team has always rebounded very well. Every year you think that this is the year [to go deep into the NCAA tournament] and you hope to take it a little bit further and we had no reason not to believe that this year. It is especially hard for our two seniors because they will not have another opportunity. So right now we are just going to look back on the season and know that it was really good and enjoy the journey that we had.”
Notre Dame Freshman MB Lauren Kelbley
On the intensity of the match… “The intensity level was really high. We were all really pumped up. Maybe we were a little too intense. But it was the highest intensity I have experienced all year.”