Nov. 5, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. –
The 12th-ranked University of Notre Dame volleyball team (19-2, 8-0) is set for an important weekend of BIG EAST Conference play in the Joyce Center, in which it will take on the only two teams that have pinned league losses on the Irish in the last five years. On Friday, conference-leading Notre Dame will play host to fourth-place Virginia Tech (12-12, 6-3) at 4 p.m. (EST), immediately before the football pep rally. The Irish will then welcome third-place Miami (19-7, 7-2) on Sunday for a 6 p.m. (EST) “Gold Game” match to be televised live on College Sports Television.
FOLLOWING THE IRISH THIS WEEKEND: Fans and media unable to attend this weekend’s matches will have a number of ways of keeping up with the action. Notre Dame’s official athletic website, www.und.com, will feature links to live scoring and live internet audio broadcasts of the matches, featuring Lorne Oke and Stephen Hinkel, available to subscribers of College Sports Pass. Live stats can be accessed at http://und.ocsn.com/livestats/w-volley. Be advised, however, that statistics displayed are not official until the match is completed. For other ways to follow the Irish, see “Keeping Up With ND Volleyball” on page 9 of this release.
ND-MIAMI MATCH TO BE ON NATIONAL TV: When two of the top teams in the BIG EAST Conference meet on Sunday 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 features 11 matches of the week broadcast on Sunday evenings throughout the season. The Irish topped the Hurricanes in the final of the BIG EAST Championship a year ago.
GOLD GAME: Sunday’s match between Notre Dame and Miami has been designated the Irish volleyball “Gold Game” this season. The distinction was created by the Student-Athlete Advisory Council to encourage the entire Notre Dame community to attend designated contests, each determined to be the most significant home event of the season for the respective team.
SNAPSHOT OF THE IRISH: Notre Dame’s women’s volleyball program has experienced a wealth of success since the arrival of head coach Debbie Brown in 1991. In her 12+ seasons, Brown has guided Notre Dame to a winning record every year, compiling a 319-106 (.751) mark. The Irish have earned 11 consecutive berths to the NCAA Championship, including three trips to the round of 16 (1994, ’95, and ’97) and a ’93 quarterfinal finish. Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in ’95, Notre Dame has dominated the league, winning seven regular-season and seven tournament titles in eight years. Overall, the Irish are 95-4 in regular-season BIG EAST play and 16-1 in conference tournament action. Notre Dame is 54-0 in BIG EAST matches in the Joyce Center.
The 2003 Irish team returned 12 monogram winners and six starters from last year’s squad that was 24-8 and earned the No. 16 seed in the NCAA Championship, playing host to first- and second-round play. The Irish also finished second in the nation in blocks per game (3.66) with all the players responsible for that number returning to the fold. This season Notre Dame leads the nation in blocking at 3.84 per game, with the second-best team in Division I, Cornell, at 3.45.
After playing the first 10 matches with a 6-2 rotation, the Irish have returned to their traditional 5-1 offense. Senior S Kristen Kinder (the ’01 BIG EAST Setter of the Year) orchestrates the Notre Dame attack for the third consecutive season, having helped the Irish to a 65-17 (.793) record as a starter. On the right side, junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis, the ’02 BIG EAST Championship Most Outstanding Player and a preseason all-conference selection, leads the Irish in kills for the second straight season. She already has set two school records this year: most kills in a match without an error (24, 9/9 vs. Valparaiso) and consecutive matches with 10+ kills (21). The middle is patrolled by a pair of sophomores named Lauren having outstanding seasons. MB Lauren Kelbley, the ’02 BIG EAST and AVCA Northeast Region Rookie of the Year, and MB Lauren Brewster, who set the Irish record for blocks assists (161) in a season in ’02, return for the Irish after stepping in immediately as freshman starters. They have combined to win five BIG EAST Player of the Week awards already this season (Kelbley-two, Brewster-three), while Brewster leads the nation in individual blocking (1.82) and is tops on the team in hitting (.359). On the left side, OH Jessica Kinder, twin sister of Kristen, is one of the hardest hitters and also one of the top defensive players on the team. She set a school record for digs in a three-game match (28) on Sept. 9 vs. Valparaiso. A pair of seniors, OPP Katie Neff and OPP/OH Kim Fletcher, also have been strong presences on the front row at times. L/OH Meg Henican is now the starting libero after playing on the left side in the 6-2. DS/L Danielle Herndon, the lone freshman on the Irish, started the season at libero, but now is a back-row sub.
LAST TIME ON THE COURT: Notre Dame returned home last week for a pair of 3-0 victories, downing Illinois State on Wednesday and Syracuse on Sunday afternoon. The Irish held both the Redbirds and Orangewomen to identical -.008 hitting percentages, marking the first time in the 24-year history of the Irish program that consecutive Notre Dame opponents registered more errors than kills.
After struggling offensively in game one, Notre Dame’s attack found a rhythm in winning its 11th consecutive match, a 3-0 (30-23, 30-18, 30-20) victory against Illinois State (11-13) in the Joyce Center Wednesday night. Notre Dame’s middle blockers were once again outstanding offensively. Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) had 11 kills and no errors on 21 swings for a .524 hitting mark. She also had three aces. Brewster’s classmate, MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.), also had 11 kills, on .444 hitting. The two combined for 32.5 points (Brewster-17, Kelbley-15.5). The nation’s best blocking team was outstanding at the net once again, registering 16.5 blocks in just three games. Seven different Irish players got into the action, led by Kelbley with six and Brewster and senior OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) with five. Sophomore L/OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) had 15 digs through two games, finishing with a match-high 17. Senior S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) led her team to a .423 attack percentage over the final two games and had a double-double, with 29 assists and 12 digs.
The Irish won their 12th consecutive match, a 3-0 (30-16, 30-26, 30-21) triumph over Syracuse (16-11, 3-5), on Sunday. Notre Dame’s defense again was the story, as 15 of the 33 Syracuse errors came on Irish blocks. Kelbley led the way, getting in on eight blocks, while junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) took part in six and Brewster had five. The floor game was paced by Henican, who had 12 digs. Kristen Kinder turned in the 25th double-double of her career (and second in as many matches), with 10 digs and 24 assists, while adding a pair of aces and five kills on .625 hitting. Offensively, Loomis led the way with 19 kills in the three-game match, her second-highest total of the season. She also had eight digs to go along with her six blocks and was the only player in the match to account for 10 or more points, finishing with 22.
IRISH MOVE UP TO 12TH IN NATIONAL RANKINGS: After not dropping a game in holding two teams to negative hitting percentages last week, Notre Dame jumped two spots to 12th in this week’s USA Today/AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25, released Monday. The two teams directly ahead of the Irish a week ago, Loyola Marymount and Northern Iowa, both suffered losses last week and fell behind Notre Dame. The ranking is the highest for Notre Dame since Sept. 30, 1996, when it was also 12th. The Irish are ranked 10th by Volleyball magazine, 12th by RichKern.com, and are 16th in the RKPI rankings, which are designed to emulate the NCAA’s RPI rankings.
Three ’03 Irish opponents are listed among the top 15 in this week’s AVCA top 25. Pepperdine (L, 1-3) leads the way at fourth, while Stanford (Nov. 29, away) is eighth, and Northern Iowa (Nov. 11, away) is 13th. Arizona (W, 3-1) is receiving votes, but not listed in the top 25.
NOTRE DAME WINNING STREAK REACHES 12: The Irish have won 12 consecutive matches, dating back to a 3-1 loss at home to South Carolina in the Shamrock Invitational on Sept. 14. The winning streak matches the second-longest in the history of the program and the longest since a 12-match stretch in 1994. A win on Friday would make it the longest under head coach Debbie Brown. The longest winning streak in school history was 17 matches in 1986. Over the current streak, Notre Dame has won 36 of 40 games, surrendering one each to Purdue, Villanova, Connecticut, and North Carolina.
In the Brown era, the Irish have had 29 different winning streaks of five matches or more, winning five in a row seven times, six straight four times, seven in a row three times, eight straight four times, nine in a row six times, 10 straight once, 11 in a row twice, and 12 straight twice.
Notre Dame is close to a few other school records. The Irish have won eight in a row away from home and six straight on opponents’ home courts, with both just two shy of the school records.
IRISH, BREWSTER MAINTAIN NATIONAL LEAD IN BLOCKING: Having posted a number of outstanding blocking matches of late, Notre Dame continues to hold a healthy lead nationally among Division I teams in blocking, while sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) remained the national leader in individual blocking this week, slightly extending her margin. The Irish are averaging 3.84 blocks per game this season, with Cornell, the nation’s second-best team, at 3.45. Brewster’s average is 1.82, with Valparaiso’s Liz Mikos second at 1.75. Over the last six matches, the Irish have 125 blocks in 26 games, an average of 4.81 per frame. Additionally, Notre Dame has had 15 or more blocks in each of the last three matches (all three-game affairs), an average of 5.61 per game (50.5 blocks, nine games). Brewster has had five or more blocks in seven consecutive matches, averaging 2.24 per game over that span (65 blocks, 29 games). A year ago, Notre Dame finished second nationally in blocking with a school-record average of 3.66, while Brewster was fourth at 1.68.
IRISH OFF TO BEST START SINCE 1994: Notre Dame’s 19-2 record marks the best start for the Irish through 21 matches since 1994, when Notre Dame was 20-1. That team opened 32-2 before finishing 33-4 and falling in the round of 16 of the NCAA Championship.
NOTRE DAME DEFENSE REGISTERS A FIRST IN PROGRAM’S HISTORY: The Notre Dame defense held its opponents to identical -.008 hitting percentages in both matches last week. It was the first time in the 24-year history of the program that Irish opponents registered more errors than kills in back-to-back matches. On Wednesday, Illinois State had 31 kills and 32 errors on 132 attempts. Syracuse notched 32 kills and 33 errors on 129 swings on Sunday. Once before, in 1995, Notre Dame held opponents to negative percentages twice in a three-match span.
On the season, the Irish are on pace to set a new school record for lowest opponent hitting average, holding foes to a .136 percentage. Notre Dame has seen the opposition hit .190 or better just four times in 21 matches. Irish opponents have hit .070 or worse in each of the last four matches, a combined percentage of .013. Irish foes have been under .090 on eight occasions in ’03.
In BIG EAST play, Notre Dame is allowing a .094 attack percentage, by far the best defensive effort in the league. Pittsburgh is second, surrendering a .167 hitting percentage to opponents.
CLASS OF THE CONFERENCE: Since Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST Conference in 1995, the Irish have experienced incredible success in league play. Overall, Notre Dame is 95-4 in conference regular-season matches and 16-1 in the BIG EAST Championship. In eight seasons, the Irish have won seven regular-season titles and seven tournament titles. Notre Dame is 54-0 at home in BIG EAST matches.
This season, the Irish are again alone atop the conference, having already clinched a berth in the four-team BIG EAST Championship (Nov. 22-23 in the Joyce Center) despite having four conference tilts remaining. Pittsburgh (19-4, 8-1) is in second place and has locked up another of the berths in the league tournament. The other two spots are still up for grabs, with six teams still mathematically alive — Miami, Virginia Tech, St. John’s, Villanova, Boston College, and Syracuse. Miami (19-7, 7-2) is currently in third and Virginia Tech (12-12, 6-3) is fourth. The Hurricanes could clinch a spot with a win at Syracuse on Friday.
GOOD START: Notre Dame opened BIG EAST Conference play 8-0 for the eighth time in nine years since joining the league in 1995. The Irish have posted six undefeated conference seasons and also started last year 11-0 in BIG EAST matches (before finishing 11-2). The only year Notre Dame did not win at least its first 11 league matches was 1998, when the Irish lost at Connecticut in their third conference match of the year.
HOME, SWEET HOME: Playing in the Joyce Center has been a nightmare for opponents, especially since head coach Debbie Brown took over the Irish program in 1991. In that span, Notre Dame is 156-22 (.876) at home, including a school-record 36-match winning streak from 2000-02. In addition to holding a 54-0 all-time mark at home in BIG EAST matches, the Irish have had incredible success against unranked teams. In the Brown era, Notre Dame is 149-5 (.968) against unranked foes in the Joyce Center, with the losses coming to Santa Clara in 1993, Ball State in ’96, Oral Roberts in ’98, Michigan State in the ’02 NCAA tournament, and South Carolina in ’03. Each of the first three defeats came in five games. The loss to MSU snapped the 36-match overall home streak and a 52-match home winning streak against unranked teams.
TAKE 20: Notre Dame needs just one more win to reach the 20-victory plateau this season. It would mark the fifth consecutive 20-win season and the 12th time in 13 years under head coach Debbie Brown that the Irish have won at least 20 matches. The lone exception was an 18-13 campaign in 1998. Overall, it would be the 15th season with 20+ victories out of 24 years of varsity volleyball at Notre Dame.
LOOMIS BREAKS A PAIR OF SCHOOL RECORDS: Junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) has broken a pair of Irish records this season. In the Sept. 9 Valparaiso match, she set a Notre Dame record for most kills in a match without an error (24), while also falling just shy of the school record for kills in a three-game match. The previous mark for most kills without an error was 23, done by Jaimie Lee on September 8, 1995 at Indiana in a five-game victory.
Loomis also set a new record for consecutive matches with 10 or more kills, with a 21-match streak including the final six contests of 2002 and each of the first 15 this year. It was snapped when she had seven kills against Rutgers on Oct. 12. The longest streak of that kind prior to Loomis’ was a 17-match stretch by Angie Harris from Oct. 5 to Nov. 28 in 1997. Loomis’ 15-match streak this season was the third-longest in a single season.
BIG EAST PLAYER OF THE WEEK DOMINANCE: Notre Dame has dominated the BIG EAST Player of the Week award this season, gaining at least a share of it six times in 10 weeks (while being idle once). Junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) won the initial honor of the season, on Sept. 1. Sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) was named a BIG EAST Co-Player of the Week Sept. 8 after her tournament-MVP performance in the Longhorn Classic and won the honor again on Sept. 29.
Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) dominated the award in the month of October, winning it three times and missing out only on an idle week for the Irish. She gained the distinction Oct. 6, 13, and 27. Brewster is just the third Irish player ever to be named BIG EAST player of the week three times in a season. She joins Mary Leffers (1999) and Kristy Kreher (2001) in that group. She and St. John’s sophomore Jackie Ahlers are the only two players to win the award three times this season.
Jessica Kinder DIGS HER WAY TO SCHOOL RECORD: On Sept. 9 vs. Valparaiso, Notre Dame senior co-captain OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) set a Notre Dame record with 28 digs, the most ever by an Irish player in a three-game match. Her 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. Kinder’s 28 were the most in any length match for an Irish player since October 25, 1993, when Christy Peters had 31 at Arizona State in a four-game contest.
IRISH JUST MISS THREE SCHOOL BLOCKING RECORDS vs. B.C.: Notre Dame, the nation’s leader in the category, had one of its best blocking performances of the season against Boston College on Oct. 24, challenging a trio of school records. The Irish finished with 19 total blocks, just one shy of the high for a three-game match, set in 1998 at St. John’s. Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.), who leads the nation in individual blocking, barely missed a pair of individual three-game match records. Her 11 blocks were just two shy of the program-best 13 by Mary Kay Waller in 1988 vs. Miami of Ohio. Brewster’s four solo blocks were one under the record of five, done three times, most recently by Waller in the ’88 Miami match.
REWRITING THE RECORD BOOKS: The 2003 season has produced a number of individual and team performances that rank among the best in the 24-year history of the Irish program.
On the team front, Notre Dame is currently on pace to break six school season records: winning percentage (.905; record is .892 in ’94), record on opponent’s court (6-1, .857; record is 11-2, .846 in ’94), record in five-game matches (2-0, 1.000; record is 5-1, .833 in ’92), block average (3.84; record is 3.66 in ’02), low opponent hitting percentage (.136; record is .151 in ’86), and low opponent ace average (0.93; record is 1.11 in ’96). The Irish also currently rank fourth all-time in two other categories: service-to-ace ratio (0.69; record is 1.08 in ’96) and low opponent block average (1.93; record is 1.53 in ’86).
Individually, a number of players are on pace to etch their names among the all-time leaders. Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) is averaging 1.82 blocks per game, which currently ranks as the top season blocking average in history, just better than Mary Kay Waller’s current school record of 1.79 in 1988. Brewster’s hitting percentage of .359 ranks as the sixth-best mark in a season, while sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) is ninth at .331. Two Irish players are posting dig numbers that are among the best seven defensive seasons ever. Sophomore L/OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) is averaging 3.53 per game, currently ranking fifth, while senior co-captain OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) is at 3.41, which is seventh. Kinder’s ace average of 0.37 is 12th all-time. Additionally, four Irish players — Henican, Jessica Kinder, senior co-captain S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.), and junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) — have played in all 76 games this season. Only six players in history have played in every game in a season.
A number of Irish players also are moving up the all-time career lists in various categories. Kristen Kinder is third in assists (3,251), fifth in assist average (10.69), and 11th in ace average (0.252). Jessica Kinder ranks third in ace average (0.375), fourth in total service aces (113), and 10th in dig average (2.40). Fellow senior OPP/OH Kim Fletcher (St. Louis, Mo./Nerinx Hall H.S.) is 11th in hitting percentage (.269), while classmate OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) is 10th in block average (0.98). Loomis is among the leaders in five categories: percentage of games played (2nd, .951), matches with 20+ kills (7th, 6), matches with 10+ kills (9th, 50), block average (11th, 0.87), and hitting percentage (13th, .263). Brewster and Kelbley have reached minimums in three categories to qualify their career leaders and figure to move into others as they play more matches. Brewster’s career block average of 1.74 currently is tops all-time, ahead of Waller’s school record of 1.68. Kelbley is fourth at 1.16. In hitting percentage, they rank second and third all-time, with Kelbley at .343 and Brewster at .323. Malinda Goralski (’01) holds the Irish record at .361. Kelbley is third in percentage of games played (.951), while Brewster is sixth (.923).
IRISH AMONG THE BIG EAST LEADERS: A number of Irish players are among the BIG EAST Conference weekly statistical leaders. Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) leads the league, and the nation, in blocks (1.82) and is second in hitting percentage (.359), and fourth in points (4.85). Sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) is second to Brewster in blocks (1.33) and sixth in hitting percentage (.331). Senior S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) is ninth in assists (9.30), while senior OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) is fifth in blocks (1.13) and junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) is ninth (1.09). Sophomore OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) is eighth in digs (3.53) and senior OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) is 10th in aces (0.37).
In the team statistics, Notre Dame leads the conference, and the nation, in blocks (3.84) and is tops in the league in opponent hitting percentage (.136). The Irish are in the top five in four other categories: hitting percentage (4th, .254), kills (4th, 15.49), assists (5th, 13.75), and digs (5th, 15.38).
Notre Dame is dominating in the leaders counting only conference matches. The Irish are first in three of the seven categories and among the top four in the others. Notre Dame leads the BIG EAST in hitting percentage (.286), opponent hitting percentage (.094), and blocks (4.71), holding sizeable leads in each category. Miami is second in blocks (2.80) and hitting percentage (.245), while Pittsburgh is second in opponent hitting (.167). The Irish are second in kills (16.23) and aces (1.73), third in assists (14.69), and fifth in digs (16.04).
In the individual leaders in conference matches, Brewster is first in blocks (2.16) and hitting percentage (.403) and fifth in points (5.32) and aces (0.36). Loomis is among the leaders in four categories: blocks (4th, 1.35), points (7th, 5.00), kills (9th, 4.00), and hitting percentage (10th, .287). Kelbley is second to Brewster in blocks (1.54) and fourth in hitting percentage (.346), while Kristen Kinder is fourth in assists (11.96) and sixth in aces (0.35). Neff is fifth in blocks (1.23), giving the Irish four of the top five spots, while Henican is sixth in digs (3.88) and Jessica Kinder is ninth in aces (0.31).
PRESEASON BIG EAST FAVORITES: Once again Notre Dame was 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 Nov. 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 MB 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.
IRISH vs. HOKIES: Virginia Tech comes into the Joyce Center on a three-match winning streak. The Hokies are 12-12 overall and 6-3 in the BIG EAST Conference, good enough for a fragile hold on fourth place and the last spot in the league tournament. Virginia Tech opened 3-0, but was 6-12 between that start and its most recent stretch. The Hokies are 1-3 in five-game affairs. Virginia Tech’s league losses came to Villanova (3-2), Boston College (3-1), and St. John’s (3-0), but the Hokies also dealt Pittsburgh its only defeat of the conference season, a 3-0 decision last Friday. Notre Dame and Virginia Tech have played seven common opponents — all BIG EAST teams — with the Irish going unbeaten and the Hokies 4-3.
The Joyce Center crowd could be a factor on Friday, as Virginia Tech has not played in front of more than 655 fans this season, while Notre Dame averages 904 per home date and figures to have a particularly large crowd for this match, staged immediately before a football pep rally.
In 2002, Virginia Tech was 20-11 (10-3 BIG EAST) and tied for second in the BIG EAST Conference before falling to Miami in the semifinals of the league tournament. The Hokies returned seven letterwinners, including three starters, from that team. Junior OH Annie Spicer and freshman MH Katie Esbrook lead the Tech team, along with sophomore S Melissa Markowski. Spicer leads the team in kills (389/4.32, 4th in BE) and digs (270/3.00), while Esbrook is tops in hitting percentage (.317), aces (37/0.43, 3rd in BE), and blocks (103/1.18, 4th in BE). Markowski has set her team to a .212 hitting percentage, averaging 11.54 assists (4th in BE). Freshman MH Allie Kupec also has been effective up front, with 91 blocks (1.06).
Head coach Greg Smith is in his fourth season with a 55-58 (.487) record. He was the BIG EAST Cach of the Year a season ago.
Notre Dame and Virginia Tech will meet for just the third time. The teams had never matched up until the Hokies joined the BIG EAST Conference in 2001. The Irish won the first match 3-0 in the Joyce Center, while Virginia Tech won in three games a year ago.
On Nov. 17, 2002, Virginia Tech put Notre Dame on a two-match BIG EAST losing streak for the first time ever, winning 3-0 (30-27, 37-35, 30-27) in Blacksburg, Va. The Hokies hit just .178, but outblocked the Irish (15-10) en route to the victory. Virginia Tech got 14 kills on .444 hitting from Cheryl Stinson (as well as nine blocks), while Ana Lang led all players with 16 kills and Sarah Rogers added 10 on .375 hitting. Both teams had 63 digs (20.3 per game), with the Hokies led by Ashley Bayer’s 15 and Annie Spicer’s 14. MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) was outstanding, with 15 kills on .609 hitting, but the rest of the team combined to hit .075. L/OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) led the defense with 14 digs, while OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) had 12.
IRISH vs. HURRICANES: Miami enters the weekend at 20-7 (7-2 BIG EAST), sitting in third place in the BIG EAST Conference. The Hurricanes will play on Friday at Syracuse and a win would clinch a spot for them in the four-team BIG EAST Championship. Miami’s league losses came to Connecticut and Pittsburgh, both in four games. The other Hurricane defeats were against #10 Arizona, #20 Santa Clara (3-2), Northwestern, Florida State, and Florida A&M. Notre Dame and Miami have played nine common opponents — six in the BIG EAST, as well as Indiana, Rhode Island, and Arizona — with the Irish going unbeaten and the ‘Canes going 7-2.
In 2002, Miami was 27-6 (10-3 BIG EAST) and tied for second in the BIG EAST Conference, finishing as the runner-up in the league tournament. The Hurricanes finished 23rd in the national rankings and reached the round of 16 in the NCAA Championship. Miami returned nine letterwinners, including five starters, from that squad, led by a pair of juniors, ’02 BIG EAST Player of the Year OH Valeria Tipiana and ’02 conference Setter of the Year Mallorey James. Tipiana, the preseason league player of the year, leads the team in kills (4.03, 5th in BE) and points (353, 7th in BE), while hitting .324 (7th in BE). Senior OH Leyre Santaella Sante is second in kills (3.96, 7th in BE) and points (394.5, 8th in BE), while leading the team in aces (0.38, 8th in BE). Freshman MB Frannie Savage is tops in hitting percentage (.331, 5th in BE). Defensively, junior L Jamie Grass paces the floor game (3.76 digs, 4th in BE) and sophomore MB/OH Robin Lewullis leads the net play (1.10 blocks, 6th in BE). Freshman S Jill Robinson has taken over the setting duties, leading her team to a .259 attack percentage.
Head coach Nicole Wantagh Welch is in her third season with a 64-20 (.762) record. She has been the only coach since the Miami program was restarted after a 19-year hiatus.
Notre Dame and Miami will meet for just the third time. The teams had never matched up until the Hurricanes became a BIG EAST Conference volleyball participant in 2002. Last season, the squads split a pair of matches, with Miami winning in five games in the regular season and the Irish triumphing in four in the final of the BIG EAST Championship in Pittsburgh. Miami’s win on the final weekend of the regular season snapped a 42-match conference winning streak for the Irish. This is the Hurricanes’ first visit to the Joyce Center.
On Nov. 15, 2002, Miami prevailed 3-2 (30-25, 30-28, 25-30, 22-30, 15-7) in its first-ever meeting with the Irish. The Hurricanes got 28 kills on .358 hitting from Tipiana, as well as 15 kills from Marcela Gamarra. Overall, Miami hit just .186, but was able to prevail. Jamie Brass had 27 digs and Tipiana added 16. Notre Dame hit .243, led by MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.), who had 13 kills and no errors on .481 hitting. OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) led the Irish with 18 kills, while two players had double-doubles. MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) had 11 kills and was in on 11 of Notre Dame’s 14.5 blocks, while S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) had 55 assists and 14 digs. Keara Coughlin had 17 digs and OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) had 16. The Irish had six kills and six errors in the decisive game.
Notre Dame got some revenge the following weekend, claiming the title match of the BIG EAST Championship 3-1 (30-19, 31-29, 27-30, 30-19) on Nov. 24, 2002. The Irish hit .299 behind Kristen Kinder’s setting and had 18 blocks. Miami struggled offensively again, mustering just a .158 attack percentage. Loomis led all players with 21 kills on .462 hitting to go along with six digs and six blocks. Brewster had another double-double, with 15 kills on .393 hitting and 12 blocks, while Kelbley had 15 kills on a .303 attack percentage. Jessica Kinder led the defense with 13 kills. Tipiana struggled for Miami, with 11 kills and 10 errors, but Elizabeth Tyson was hot, turning in 16 kills on .452 hitting. Gamarra added 15. Tipiana had 18 digs to lead the defense. Notre Dame was hot early, hitting .606 (21-2-33) in the opening game.
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 319-106 (.751) mark, while holding a 436-189 (.698) overall record. Brown’s Notre Dame teams have earned 11 consecutive NCAA tournament berths, advancing to the quarterfinals in 1993 and the round of 16 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.
TALL TEAM: Only six teams in the nation have a taller average height than Notre Dame’s ’03 squad. The 14 Irish players have an average height of 6-0, which is bettered only by Illinois, Pacific, Pepperdine, Saint Louis, USC, and Texas. In addition, only eight players in Division I are taller than senior OPP Katie Neff’s (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) 6-4 frame.
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 (St. Louis, Mo./Nerinx Hall H.S.) earned a 4.000 GPA in both semesters of the most recent academic year, while classmate Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) 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.
“NOTRE DAME PRIMETIME” AIRING ON CSTV & WHME-TV: Among the new fall programming for College Sports Television (CSTV) is “Notre Dame Primetime,” a weekly one-hour show dedicated entirely to Notre Dame athletics. It airs on Sundays at 8:30 p.m. (EDT) and can now be seen in the South Bend area on Mondays at 7 p.m. (EST) on WHME-TV. A number of Irish volleyball personalities already have been featured on “Notre Dame Primetime,” including head coach Debbie Brown, OPP/OH Emily Loomis, OH Jessica Kinder, and MB Lauren Brewster. CSTV is currently available nationwide to more than 15 million cable and satellite homes. To find out where CSTV is available in your area, log on to www.CSTV.com, or call your local cable or satellite operator.
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 all 26 varsity sports and serves as a supplement to the match recaps and weekly releases provided on the official athletic website, 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 available to College Sports Pass subscribers supplement the match previews and recaps. Remaining live broadcasts include the matches against Virginia Tech (Nov. 7) and Miami (Nov. 9) and the Irish contests in the BIG EAST Championship (Nov. 22-23).
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.