Nov. 11, 2003
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – The 12th-ranked University of Notre Dame volleyball team (21-3) took early leads of at least five points in every game, but saw its 14-match winning streak snapped in a 3-1 (30-23, 30-28, 26-30, 30-26) decision at #14 Northern Iowa Tuesday evening. The Panthers (22-4) provided a series of late-game surges to extend their home winning streak to 69 matches, the second-longest in NCAA history.
Northern Iowa used a sellout crowd of 2,052 to finish strong in each of the games it won. The Panthers ended their victorious games with runs of 8-1, 3-1, and 5-1, respectively, with all of those stretches coming immediately after the game score was tied.
Notre Dame had trouble offensively, hitting just .185 on the night. Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) was solid, with 14 kills on .385 hitting to go along with nine blocks, barely missing a double-double. Junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) added 13 kills and eight digs, while sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) had 11 kills. Senior OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) hit well, with eight kills and only two errors, while her classmate, OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) also had eight kills. Senior co-captain S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) was an effective offensive weapon, as well, with six kills on .333 hitting.
Sophomore L/OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) was strong defensively, leading all players with 17 digs.
Northern Iowa won a battle of two of the top three blocking teams in the country. The Panthers had 15 blocks, while Notre Dame finished with 12.5. Other than Brewster, Neff was the major Irish presence at the net, getting in on six blocks.
Northern Iowa’s home winning streak is the longest active home winning streak and the second-longest ever, behind only an 87-match string by Penn State from 1995-2000.
Notre Dame came out hitting well, opening up a 13-8 first-game lead on strong early hitting. A Panther timeout spurned a comeback and the score was tied 16-16. The teams split the next dozen points before Northern Iowa broke a 22-22 deadlock with an 8-1 run to finish out the game. The stretch featured five kills, two blocks and an ace from the Panthers, who finished the game hitting .333.
The second game was similar to the first, with the Irish opening a 12-7 lead before a UNI timeout. The Panthers tied the game at 15-15 and it remained close throughout. At 27-27, Northern Iowa surged ahead with a block and a kill, to give it two game points. After a Panther service error, setter Jill Arganbright converted a kill to put her team up 2-0. UNI hit .359 in the game.
Both teams struggled offensively in the third game, but Notre Dame was able to hold on to its lead throughout to force a fourth game. Northern Iowa never led in the frame, hitting -.020 (13 kills, 14 errors, 49 attempts). The Irish were barely more effective, hitting .000 (11 kills, 11 errors, 47 attempts).
The fourth-game early Notre Dame advantage was 9-4, but Northern Iowa eventually pulled back to even at 22-22. At 25-25, the Panthers took four of the final five points to clinch the match.
The sellout crowd was the largest seen by Notre Dame in a road match since traveling to Hawaii last October.
Notre Dame is the highest-ranked UNI opponent ever to play in West Gymnasium.
Tuesday marked the first time Notre Dame was involved in a battle of top-15 teams since Sept. 13, 1996, when the 11th-ranked Irish fell 3-1 to #5 Penn State.
Northern Iowa became just the eighth team in the Debbie Brown era and 14th overall to have faced Notre Dame multiple times and won every meeting. The Panthers won the only other match, in 2001.
After a one-match hiatus, the Irish will return to conference play this weekend. Notre Dame has a chance to clinch a share of the regular-season BIG EAST title on Saturday in a match at West Virginia at 11 a.m. (EST). The Irish have won seven of eight regular-season championships since joining the league in 1995.
The top two teams in the conference will then square off on Sunday at 2 p.m. (EST) in Pittsburgh. The Panthers are 9-1 in league play entering the weekend. Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, and Miami (8-3 BIG EAST) have clinched berths in the BIG EAST Championship, to be contested Nov. 22-23 in the Joyce Center. The final spot is still up for grabs, with Virginia Tech (7-4 BIG EAST), St. John’s (6-4 BIG EAST), and Villanova (6-4 BIG EAST) battling for it. Notre Dame has won seven of eight BIG EAST tournament championships since becoming a member of the conference.