Nov. 9, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 12th-ranked University of Notre Dame volleyball team (21-2, 10-0) played one of its best matches of the season in sweeping rival Miami (30-26, 30-24, 30-22) Sunday evening in the Joyce Center for its 14th consecutive victory in a rematch of last year’s BIG EAST Championship final. The match, which attracted 2,715 fans — the most ever for a volleyball match in the Joyce Center not played before a football pep rally — was televised nationally as part of College Sports Television’s Sunday Night Spike match-of-the-week package.
Senior co-captain Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) set the Irish to a .326 attack percentage in her final regular-season home game, accumulating 44 assists — nearly 15 per game — while helping Notre Dame to 58 kills, an average of 19.33 per frame. She also was an effective offensive weapon, adding six kills of her own on .455 hitting.
Five Irish hitters turned in attack percentages over .300. Sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) led all players with 15 kills on .353 hitting, while classmate MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) posted the top hitting mark, .462, finishing seven kills. Seniors OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) and OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) both hit well in their final regular-season match in the Joyce Center, each registering nine kills. Neff hit .333 with Kinder at .318.
Junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) had her second double-double in as many matches, with 12 kills and 10 digs. Sophomore L/OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) led the Irish defense with 15 digs, while Jessica Kinder just missed a double-double with nine digs.
Notre Dame had 10 blocks, shy of its nation-leading average of 3.84 heading into the week. The Irish are now averaging 3.72 blocks per game, but figure to maintain the lead among Division I teams, as Cornell, last week’s second-best team, came into the week at 3.45. Kelbley, Brewster, and Neff each were in on four blocks on Sunday.
Miami came out hot early, taking early leads by as many as three points, but the first game eventually featured 12 ties before the Irish scored seven of the final 10 points to break a 23-23 deadlock. Kelbley and Jessica Kinder provided a pair of kills each down the stretch. The Hurricanes hit just .190 in the game.
The second game saw the teams again knotted midway through before Notre Dame was able to pull away, going on an 8-4 run late to set up the victory. The Irish had 20 kills in each of the first two games, including a .395 hitting percentage in the second.
Notre Dame took an early advantage in game three, opening a 16-8 advantage en route to an eight-point win.
The Irish improved to 97-4 all-time in regular-season BIG EAST Conference tilts and 55-0 in league matches at home.
Notre Dame’s 21-2 start matches the best through 23 contests in school history. The ’94 squad also was 21-2 en route to a 33-4 mark and a berth in the round of 16 of the NCAA Championship.
The Irish have won 14 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.
In two matches this weekend, a total of 11,358 fans watched Irish volleyball. On Friday, Notre Dame set a new volleyball attendance record, with 8,643 witnessing a five-game Irish triumph before the football pep rally. On the season, the Irish have seen 21,302 fans in the Joyce Center, an average of 1,639 per match.
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 9-1 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, with Miami (8-3), St. John’s (6-4), Virginia Tech (6-4), and Villanova (5-4) battling for them.