Nov. 8, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. –
The 12th-ranked University of Notre Dame volleyball team (20-2, 9-0) will play host to Miami (22-7, 9-2) Sunday at 6 p.m. (EST) in a rematch of the final of last year’s BIG EAST Championship. The only two squads from the league to earn berths in last year’s NCAA tournament were picked as the favorites in the BIG EAST this season. The match is the Irish volleyball “Gold Game” and will be televised nationally by College Sports Television as part of its Sunday Night Spike match-of-the-week package.
FOLLOWING THE NOTRE DAME-MIAMI MATCH: Fans and media unable to attend Sunday’s match 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 CSTV: When two of the top teams in the BIG EAST Conference meet 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. Kevin Eschenfelder (play by play) and Heather Cox (analysis) will call the action. 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 (and 20+ wins in every year but one), compiling a 320-106 (.751) mark. The Irish have earned 11 consecutive berths to the NCAA Championship, including a ’93 quarterfinal finish and three trips to the round of 16 (1994, ’95, and ’97). 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 96-4 in regular-season BIG EAST play and 16-1 in conference tournament action. Notre Dame is 55-0 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 3.73 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 66-17 (.795) 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 after stepping in immediately as freshman starters. They have combined to win five BIG EAST Player of the Week awards this season (Kelbley-two, Brewster-three), while Brewster leads the nation in individual blocking (1.78) and is tops on the team in hitting (.364). 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 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.
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). 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
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 13: 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 24-year history of Notre Dame varsity volleyball and the longest under 13-year head coach Debbie Brown. The longest winning streak in school history was 17 matches in 1986. Over the current streak, Notre Dame has won 39 of 45 games, surrendering one each to Purdue, Villanova, Connecticut, and North Carolina, as well as two to Virginia Tech.
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 once, and 13 in a row once.
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. Heading into the week, the Irish were averaging 3.84 blocks per game this season, with Cornell, the nation’s second-best team, at 3.45. Brewster’s average was 1.82, with Valparaiso’s Liz Mikos second at 1.75. Over the last six matches, the Irish have 136 blocks in 31 games, an average of 4.39 per frame. Brewster has had five or more blocks in eight consecutive matches, averaging 2.09 per game over that span (71 blocks, 34 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 SECOND-BEST START IN SCHOOL HISTORY: Notre Dame’s 20-2 record matches the best start through 22 matches in school history. The best two-loss start to a season came in 1994, when the Irish opened 32-2 before finishing 33-4 and falling in the round of 16 of the NCAA Championship.
OCTOBER FEST: Notre Dame posted a perfect 8-0 record in the month of October, marking the first-ever perfect record in a full month of play in the 24-year history of the program. The Irish, who took 24 of 26 games last month, have won 11 consecutive October matches, dating back to last year. Over the last four-plus years, Notre Dame is 34-5 (.872) in October.
Six times before have the Irish gone undefeated in a month featuring a limited schedule — never one with more than four matches in it. Notre Dame went unbeaten in August in 1987 (1-0), ’91 (1-0), ’96 (3-0), 2001 (1-0) and ’02 (2-0), as well as posting an undefeated November (4-0) in 1982.
PACKING THEM IN: A crowd of 8,643 watched Notre Dame outlast Virginia Tech 3-2 on Friday, setting a new Joyce Center attendance record for volleyball by more than 5,000. The previous mark was 3,351 on Nov. 1, 2002 vs. Providence. Both matches were played immediately before Irish football pep rallies.
Friday’s crowd pushed Notre Dame’s season attendance to 18,587, a new all-time high. The Irish also are on pace to set a new average attendance mark, currently welcoming 1,549 fans per match. A year ago, Notre Dame averaged 1,064, which was the highest in the program’s history to that point.
GOING THE DISTANCE: Notre Dame’s win against Virginia Tech on Friday was its third in as many five-game matches this season. The Irish have never gone undefeated in five-game matches in a campaign, with their best mark a 5-1 record in 1992. Previously this season, Notre Dame had 3-2 wins over Houston (15-11 in the fifth) in the Longhorn Classic in Austin, Texas, and Utah (15-12 in the fifth) at home in the Shamrock Invitational.
Friday marked the first time ever that Notre Dame was stretched to five games in a home BIG EAST contest. The Irish are 55-0 at home against league foes since joining the conference in 1995.
CAREER NIGHTS: A number of Irish players posted career bests in Friday’s 3-2 triumph against Virginia Tech. Senior co-captain S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) had a career-high 68 assists in setting Notre Dame to a .291 attack percentage. Her assist total was one better than her performance against Pepperdine last season and marked the most assists for an Irish player since Denise Boylan had 86 in four games against Pittsburgh on Oct. 8, 2000.
The two most effective hitters on Friday, sophomores MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) and MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.), each had 22 kills. It was Brewster’s top career total, besting a 20-kill performance at North Carolina last month, while it marked the second time Kelbley hit for 22 kills in her career (also against Houston on Sept. 5 of this season).
Junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) set her career high in digs for the second time this year. After posting 17 at Connecticut last month, she had 18 vs. the Hokies on Friday.
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 .142 percentage. Notre Dame has seen the opposition hit .190 or better just five times in 22 matches. Irish opponents hit .070 or worse in four straight matches heading into the week, a combined percentage of .013. Irish foes have been under .090 on eight occasions in ’03.
In BIG EAST play, Notre Dame came into the week allowing a .094 attack percentage, by far the best defensive effort in the league. Pittsburgh was 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 96-4 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 55-0 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 three conference tilts remaining. Pittsburgh (20-4, 9-1) and Miami (21-7, 8-2) are in second and third, respectively, having both also clinched spots in the league tournament. The final berth is still up for grabs, with St. John’s (6-4 in BIG EAST), Virginia Tech (6-4 in BIG EAST), and Villanova (5-4 in BIG EAST) battling for it.
GOOD START: Notre Dame opened BIG EAST Conference play 9-0 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 157-22 (.877) at home, including a school-record 36-match winning streak from 2000-02. In addition to holding a 55-0 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 150-5 (.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’s win on Friday improved its record to 20-2, marking its 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, this is the 15th season with 20+ victories in 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 (.909; 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 (3-0, 1.000; record is 5-1, .833 in ’92), block average (3.73; record is 3.66 in ’02), low opponent hitting percentage (.142; record is .151 in ’86), and low opponent ace average (0.96; 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 (1.95; 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 1.78 blocks per game, which currently ranks as the third-best season blocking average in history, just behind Mary Kay Waller’s school record of 1.79 in 1988. Brewster’s hitting percentage of .364 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 eight defensive seasons ever. Sophomore L/OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) is averaging 3.49 per game, currently ranking sixth, while senior co-captain OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) is at 3.32, which is eighth. Kinder’s ace average of 0.36 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 (3,319) and fourth in assist average (10.74). Jessica Kinder ranks third in ace average (0.373), fourth in total service aces (114), and 10th in dig average (2.39). 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 (0.97). Loomis is among the leaders in five categories: percentage of games played (2nd, .952), matches with 20+ kills (7th, 6), matches with 10+ kills (9th, 51), block average (12th, 0.87), and hitting percentage (13th, .261). Brewster and Kelbley have reached minimums in three categories to qualify for the career leaders and figure to move into others as they play more matches. Brewster’s career block average of 1.72 currently is tops all-time, ahead of Waller’s school record of 1.68. Kelbley is fourth at 1.15. In hitting percentage, they rank second and third all-time, with Kelbley at .343 and Brewster at .327. Malinda Goralski (’01) holds the Irish record at .361. Kelbley is third in percentage of games played (.952), while Brewster is sixth (.926).
IRISH AMONG THE BIG EAST LEADERS: A number of Irish players were among the BIG EAST Conference statistical leaders heading into the week. Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) led the league, and the nation, in blocks (1.82) and was second in hitting percentage (.359), and fourth in points (4.85). Sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) was second to Brewster in blocks (1.33) and sixth in hitting percentage (.331). Senior S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) was ninth in assists (9.30), while senior OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) was fifth in blocks (1.13) and junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.) was ninth (1.09). Sophomore OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) was eighth in digs (3.53) and senior OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) was 10th in aces (0.37).
In the team statistics, Notre Dame led the conference, and the nation, in blocks (3.84) and was tops in the league in opponent hitting percentage (.136). The Irish were 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 was dominating in the leaders counting only conference matches. The Irish were first in three of the seven categories and among the top four in the others. Notre Dame led the BIG EAST in hitting percentage (.286), opponent hitting percentage (.094), and blocks (4.71), holding sizeable leads in each category. Miami was second in blocks (2.80) and hitting percentage (.245), while Pittsburgh was second in opponent hitting (.167). The Irish were 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 was first in blocks (2.16) and hitting percentage (.403) and fifth in points (5.32) and aces (0.36). Loomis was among the leaders in four categories: blocks (4th, 1.35), points (7th, 5.00), kills (9th, 4.00), and hitting percentage (10th, .287). Kelbley was second to Brewster in blocks (1.54) and fourth in hitting percentage (.346), while Kristen Kinder was fourth in assists (11.96) and sixth in aces (0.35). Neff was fifth in blocks (1.23), giving the Irish four of the top five spots, while Henican was sixth in digs (3.88) and Jessica Kinder was 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. HURRICANES: Miami comes to the Joyce Center at 21-7 (8-2 BIG EAST), sitting in third place in the BIG EAST Conference and having already clinched a return trip to Notre Dame for the four-team BIG EAST Championship Nov. 22-23. 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 10 common opponents — seven in the BIG EAST, as well as Indiana, Rhode Island, and Arizona — with the Irish going unbeaten and the ‘Canes going 8-2.
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 320-106 (.751) mark, while holding a 437-189 (.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. Her squads have won 20 or more matches 12 times. 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.
THE HARDER THEY FALL: Notre Dame’s season-opening 3-1 victory over #10 Arizona in the Four Points Sheraton Classic gave the Irish a top-10 upset in each of the last two seasons. On September 14, 2002, Notre Dame outlasted 10th-ranked Pepperdine in the championship match of the Golden Dome Invitational in the Joyce Center. The win over the Wildcats was the eighth in the program’s history over a top-10 opponent.
HAIL TO THE CHAMPIONS: Notre Dame’s championship in the Longhorn Classic marked the fourth consecutive season the Irish have come away with at least one in-season tournament title, but was the first for Notre Dame outside the Joyce Center since the 2000 Lady Seminole Classic. The Irish won the Shamrock Invitational in each of the last three seasons and also were victorious in the ’02 Golden Dome Invitational
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.
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.