Oct. 23, 2003
KINGSTON, R.I. – The 14th-ranked University of Notre Dame volleyball team (16-2) won its ninth consecutive match, beating Rhode Island (9-14) in three games (30-20, 30-23, 30-20) Thursday evening in the Keaney Gymnasium. The Irish have now won 22 of their last 24 games and are off to their best start since 1995.
Senior S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) led the Irish offense to a .311 hitting night, spreading the ball around and accumulating 30 assists and also tipping three kills.
A quintet of Notre Dame hitters turned in six or more kills each, led by the middle blockers. Sophomore MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.) led all players with 10 kills, on .333 hitting, while classmate MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.) added nine kills while posting the top individual hitting percentage of the match, .412.
After not playing at all on Tuesday vs. North Carolina, senior OPP/OH Kim Fletcher (St. Louis, Mo./Nerinx Hall H.S.) made her fourth start of the season and first in nearly a month and responded well. She ended up with seven kills and just one error offensively, while scrambling for six digs and taking part in three blocks. It was just the second time this season she played in every game of a match.
Also aiding the Irish attack were junior OPP/OH Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers H.S.), who finished with eight kills, and senior OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.), who had six.
The best blocking team in the nation, Notre Dame finished just above its season average in blocks, with 11 in three games. The Irish have 241 blocks in 67 games this season, an average of 3.60. Heading into the week, the next best blocking team in Division I, Cornell, was averaging 3.32.
Brewster, ranked third nationally in the individual category, led the Irish for the 10th time this season, with three solos and three assists for a total of six blocks. Her season average crept up to 1.74 (108 blocks, 62 games). The nation’s leader, Rachel Wagener of Maryland, came into the week at 1.77.
Kelbley had five blocks on Thursday, including one of the solo variety.
Notre Dame outdug Rhode Island 43-36, led by Jessica Kinder’s 11. It was the 12th time this season she hit double digits.
Loomis added seven digs, continuing her improved defensive play. During the current winning streak, she is averaging 2.16 digs per game (67 in 31 games) after having just 19 in the initial 36 games of the season, rarely playing in the back row during that stretch.
After struggling on Tuesday (no aces, four errors), the team’s most dangerous server, Jessica Kinder, found a groove against URI, hitting three aces without an error. On the season, she has 24 aces (0.36).
Following a sluggish start that saw them lead 8-7 in the opening game, the Irish opened up a 19-10 advantage en route to the first-game triumph. Notre Dame hit .344 in the frame, while the Rams posted a .079 attack percentage.
Offensively, the Irish sputtered in game two, but still managed a seven-point win. Rhode Island had its best hitting game of the night – with 14 kills and a .154 mark.
Game three was tight early, with URI trailing by one after 15 points. But Notre Dame went on for the win, hitting .364 in the game, while the Rams had nine kills and 10 errors.
The Irish will conclude their three-match fall break trip on Friday with a BIG EAST Conference contest at Boston College. Notre Dame will try to continue their success in playing on consecutive days in different cities. The Irish have gone 2-0 nine times in the past 10 occasions they have been faced with the situation.