Nov. 7, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 12th-ranked University of Notre Dame volleyball team (20-2, 9-0) was stretched to the limit, but eventually rallied from a 2-1 deficit for a five-game victory (30-22, 25-30, 29-31, 30-24, 15-13) over Virginia Tech Friday afternoon in the Joyce Center. The match, which was played immediately before the Irish football pep rally, attracted a crowd of 8,643, breaking the previous Joyce Center attendance record for volleyball by more than 5,000. Notre Dame will next play host to Miami on Sunday at 6 p.m. (EST) in a match to be televised nationally by College Sports Television.
The decisive game was tied at 9-9, 11-11, and 12-12, with Irish junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) breaking the final deadlock with a kill. Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.), the nation’s leader in blocking, then delivered a solo block on a Liz Kapp attack attempt to put the Irish within one point of victory. After a Hokies timeout, Kapp converted on a kill to save the first Notre Dame match point. Brewster then took a set from senior co-captain S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) and drove it into the Sport Court to clinch the Irish triumph.
Notre Dame had one of its most consistent hitting nights of the season, posting a .291 attack percentage behind the setting of Kinder, who finished with a career-high 68 assists (13.6 per game). After a blistering .406 mark in the opening game, the Irish hit between .255 and .280 in each of the final four.
The two Notre Dame middle blockers shared the honor of posting match-high kill totals, with both Brewster and sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) finishing with 22, combining for a .379 hitting percentage. Brewster hit .429 and Kelbley .333, while both had 25.5 points.
The Irish got double-doubles from a pair of sources: Loomis and senior co-captain Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.). Loomis had 16 kills and a career-high 18 digs for her 11th career double-double and third of the season. Kinder had a season-high 10 kills (on .304 hitting) to go along with 10 digs.
Sophomore L/OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) added 15 digs, while freshman DS/L Danielle Herndon (Plant City, Fla./Durant H.S.) had 13 to go with a season-high three aces.
Notre Dame, the nation’s leader in blocking, struggled at the net, posting just 11 blocks, an average of 2.20 per game. The Irish came into the contest averaging 3.84. It was the second year in a row that the Hokies had success against Notre Dame’s prolific blocking. In 2002, the Irish, who finished second nationally in the category, were outblocked 15-10 in a three-game road defeat against Virginia Tech in the final match of the regular season.
On Friday, Notre Dame started out well, registering two blocks in the first five points before going on a drought. Twenty-six points later, the Irish got another block, but they then went 102 consecutive points without another block, including all of the second game. The dry spell was finally broken when Loomis and Kelbley combined for a block to give Notre Dame a 15-12 lead in game three.
Brewster led the Irish blocking effort, getting in on six, while Loomis took part in four.
The Irish were strong in game one, making just two attack errors paired with 15 kills, while the Hokies hit just .106. The game was tied 13-13, but the Irish then pulled away. Loomis had five kills on .500 hitting in the frame.
Game two was also close throughout, but Virginia Tech had six kills and no attack errors after the teams were tied 19-19. The Hokies hit .405, with 20 kills and three errors, while registering 20 digs.
The third game featured eight early ties, but then Notre Dame held a slim lead until the Hokies evened the score at 25-25. The teams traded points from there on, with Notre Dame getting the first game point, at 29-28. An Irish attack error evened the score, setting up a Melissa Markowski ace and an Annie Spicer kill that gave Tech a 2-1 advantage.
Notre Dame dominated early in the fourth game, opening up as much as an 11-point lead (22-11) on the way to forcing a fifth game. The Hokies hit just .171 in the frame.
Notre Dame improved to 3-0 this season in five-game matches, having also topped Houston and Utah. The Irish have never gone unbeaten in 3-2 matches in a season, with their best record a 5-1 mark in five-gamers in 1992.
The Irish, who were taken to five games in a BIG EAST match for the first time ever in the Joyce Center, improved to 96-4 all-time in regular-season BIG EAST Conference tilts and 55-0 in league matches at home.
Notre Dame’s 20-2 start matches the best through 22 contests in school history. The ’94 squad also was 20-2 en route to a 33-4 mark and a berth in the round of 16 of the NCAA Championship.
The Irish have won 13 consecutive matches, dating back to a 3-1 loss at home to South Carolina in the Shamrock Invitational on Sept. 14. The winning streak is the second-longest in the program’s history and the longest under 13-year head coach Debbie Brown. The longest winning streak in Irish history is 17, done in 1986.
Notre Dame has now won 20 or more matches 12 times in Brown’s tenure and 15 times overall.
The previous Joyce Center attendance record for volleyball was 3,351 against Providence on Nov. 1, 2002, in another match before a football pep rally.
Notre Dame, which has already secured a spot in the four-team BIG EAST Championship to be held Nov. 22-23 in the Joyce Center, remains the lone unbeaten in conference play. Pittsburgh, which played host to West Virginia on Friday evening, is in second place at 8-1 in league action, also having secured a place in the conference tournament. The final two spots in the BIG EAST Championship are up for grabs, though third-place Miami (7-2 in BIG EAST) had a chance to do clinch one of them with a win at Syracuse on Friday. Virginia Tech, St. John’s, Villanova, Boston College, and Syracuse all were mathematically alive for the final berth heading into the weekend’s action.