Oct. 29, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – After struggling offensively in game one, the 14th-ranked University of Notre Dame volleyball team (18-2) found an offensive rhythm in winning its 11th consecutive match, a 3-0 (30-23, 30-18, 30-20) victory against Illinois State (11-13) in the Joyce Center Wednesday night. The Irish, who again had a big blocking night, will try to match the longest winning streak of the Debbie Brown era on Sunday, playing host to Syracuse at 2 p.m. (EST).
Notre Dame’s middle blockers were once again outstanding offensively. Sophomore MB Lauren Brewster (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood H.S.), who has been named the BIG EAST Player of the Week in each of the last three weeks the Irish have been in action, had 11 kills and no errors on 21 swings for a .524 hitting mark. She also had three aces. Brewster’s classmate, MB Lauren Kelbley (Bascom, Ohio/Hopewell-Loudon H.S.), also had 11 kills, on .444 hitting. The two combined for 32.5 points (Brewster-17, Kelbley-15.5).
The nation’s best blocking team was outstanding at the net once again, registering 16.5 blocks in just three games, upping its season average to 3.79. Seven different Irish players got into the action, led by Kelbley with six and Brewster and senior OPP Katie Neff (St. Louis, Mo./Cor Jesu Academy) with five. Brewster’s nation-leading blocking average actually went down, from 1.83 to 1.82.
Sophomore L/OH Meg Henican (New Orleans, La./Isidore Newman H.S.) had 15 digs through two games, finishing with a match-high 17.
Senior OH Jessica Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) had her best offensive match of the season, with nine kills on a .412 attack percentage. It was her second-best percentage of ’03 and matched her high in kills. She also had 11 digs, missing a double-double by just one kill. Her classmate, OPP/OH Kim Fletcher (St. Louis, Mo./Nerinx Hall H.S.), played only in game three, but responded with four kills and no errors on eight attempts, a .500 hitting mark.
Senior S Kristen Kinder (Fresno, Calif./Bullard H.S.) led her team to a .423 attack percentage over the final two games, while also registering three kills on five attempts. She had a double-double, with 29 assists and 12 digs, the 24th of her career.
Illinois State had 31 kills and 32 errors on the night and a -.008 hitting percentage. It was the lowest hitting performance by an Irish opponent since St. John’s hit -.101 against the Irish in 2001. Notre Dame’s defense has held opponents to just a .142 attack percentage this season. In 20 matches, opponents have hit .190 or better on only four occasions. Seven times, including four of the last five matches, Irish foes have hit less than .100.
The opening game of the match was tight, with Notre Dame holding just a two-point advantage before putting together a few runs to close out the frame. The Irish had seven kills, but hit just .044 (12 kills, 10 errors, 45 attempts). Illinois State had an even tougher time, hitting -.130, with 13 errors and seven kills.
Notre Dame’s offense was outstanding in the second game, building a 15-4 lead en route to a 12-point victory. The Irish had 19 kills and just two errors for a .531 percentage. Kelbley had kills on all six of her swings, while Brewster and Jessica Kinder were near perfect. Together the three of them had 14 kills and no errors on 17 attempts (.824).
The Irish hit .333 in the final game, with Jessica Kinder and Fletcher leading the way, combining for seven kills and no errors on 13 swings. The game was close late, but the Irish won the final six points to clinch the match.
The victory was the fifth in a row for Notre Dame against the Redbirds. It was only the second time in the last 13 matches between the schools that was decided in three games.
Notre Dame’s 18-2 record marks its best start since 1994, when the Irish started 32-2 before finishing 33-4.
The Irish have won 11 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 fifth of 11 or more matches in the history of the program and the first since an 11-match stretch in 2000. The longest winning streak in Irish history is 17, done in 1986. Over this streak, Notre Dame has won 44 of 48 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, the longest being a 12-match streak in 1994.