Nov. 2, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 14th-ranked University of Notre Dame volleyball team (19-2, 8-0) held its opponents to a negative attack percentage for the second match in a row — a first in the 24-year history of the program — as the Irish won their 12th consecutive match, a 3-0 (30-16, 30-26, 30-21) triumph over Syracuse (16-11, 3-5) Sunday afternoon in the Joyce Center. The winning streak matches the longest under head coach Debbie Brown and is the second-longest in school history. Notre Dame clinched a spot in the four-team BIG EAST Championship (Nov. 22-23 in the Joyce Center) with the win, despite having four conference matches remaining.
Notre Dame’s defense again was the story, holding the Orangewomen to -.008 hitting on the match (32 kills, 33 errors, 129 attempts), the exact percentage mustered by Illinois State on Wednesday. Never before had Irish opponents hit negatively in consecutive matches. Once, in 1995, Notre Dame held teams to fewer kills than errors twice in three matches.
Fifteen of the 33 Syracuse errors came on Irish blocks, upping Notre Dame’s nation-leading average to 3.84 per game. A week ago, the second-best team in Division I, Cornell, was averaging 3.32. Sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) 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 sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.), the top individual blocker in the nation, had five. It was the third consecutive match (all three-game affairs) that the Irish had 15 or more blocks, an average of 5.61 per game (50.5 blocks, nine games).
On the season, the Irish are holding opponents to a .136 attack percentage and have seen the opposition hit .190 or better just four times in 21 matches. Notre Dame opponents have hit .070 or worse in four consecutive matches, a combined percentage of .013. Irish foes have been under .090 on eight occasions in ’03.
The floor game was paced by sophomore L/OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.), who had 12 digs. She has had a dozen or more digs on 15 occasions this season and averaged 4.83 digs per game on the week (29 digs, six games).
Senior co-captain S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) 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.
Notre Dame had an outstanding serving match, finishing with more aces than errors for the fourth time this season. The Irish had seven aces, led by senior co-captain OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.), who had three to up her team-leading total to 28 (0.37). She moved into third-place on the all-time Irish career aces list, with 117. Her career average of 0.381 also ranks third in school history. Brewster and Kristen Kinder had two aces apiece for the Irish, who had just four service errors.
The Irish sprinted to a 15-3 lead in the opening game, but struggled offensively throughout the frame, managing just a .154 attack percentage. Syracuse, though, had just six kills and 14 errors in the game, a -.195 mark. Half of the Orangewomen errors came on Irish blocks, including five in which Kelbley participated.
It was Syracuse that jumped out to an early advantage in game two. Notre Dame finally surged ahead for the first time using Jessica Kinder’s serve to win seven consecutive points, turning a 19-15 deficit into a 22-19 lead. The Irish held on for a 2-0 edge despite hitting just .140 in the game.
The third game was close until Notre Dame put together a six-point streak on the serve of freshman DS/L Danielle Herndon (Plant City, Fla./Duran H.S.), which turned a 15-15 game into one with the Irish holding a comfortable advantage. Loomis keyed the effort, with eight kills and four digs in the frame.
The crowd of 1,490 was the largest to watch a Notre Dame match this season. It was the highest attendance in the Joyce Center since Nov. 1, 2002 against Providence, a school-record crowd of 3,251.
The victory was the 10th in a row for Notre Dame against the Orangewomen, and it upped the all-time Irish record in BIG EAST Conference matches to 95-4, including 54-0 in the Joyce Center.
Notre Dame’s 19-2 record is the second-best start in school history, behind only the ’94 season,when the Irish were 20-1 through 21 matches en route to a 33-4 mark and a berth in the round of 16 of the NCAA Championship.
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 program’s history, tying a 1994 streak. The longest winning streak in Irish history is 17, done in 1986. Over the current streak, Notre Dame has won 47 of 51 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.
With Pittsburgh’s 3-0 loss to Virginia Tech on Friday, Notre Dame is alone in the top spot in the BIG EAST Conference, as the only unbeaten in league play. The four remaining league matches for the Irish feature the three teams directly behind them in the standings. Next weekend, Notre Dame will play host to fourth-place Virginia Tech (6-3 in BIG EAST) on Friday at 4 p.m. (EST) before welcoming third-place Miami (7-2 in BIG EAST) on Sunday at 6 p.m. (EST) in a match to be televised nationally on College Sports Television. The final day of league play will feature a matchup between the conference’s top two teams, as the Irish travel to Pittsburgh to face the Panthers (8-1 in BIG EAST).
Notre Dame and Pittsburgh have clinched spots in the BIG EAST Championship, while the other two berths are still up for grabs, with six teams still mathematically alive (Miami, Virginia Tech, St. John’s, Villanova, Boston College, Syracuse).